‘Sacrifice for Shabbat’: Israeli marathon champ drops out of world championship

This is the second world championship Beatie Deutsch will miss for choosing her religion over competition.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Orthodox Jewish marathon champ Beatie Deutsch announced that she is withdrawing from August’s World Athletic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, because the authorities will not move her competition to a day other than Saturday.

The Israeli-American mother of five, who also runs in modest clothing while wearing a headscarf due to her religious beliefs, posted her decision on her Facebook account.

“And as I reflect on my journey, and the intense challenges and obstacles I’ve faced along the way, I know that the sacrifice I make for Shabbat, the commitment I make to uphold this holy day, is the most precious choice I will take with me.”

She noted that this will be the third major competition she will be missing due to her Sabbath observance, as the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics she had qualified for, both scheduled her event for a Saturday.

“Even once the Olympics were rescheduled [to 2021] due to Corona, they still refused to make any religious accommodations (although they had done so in the past when Ramadan coincided with the London Olympics),” she added.

This time the pressure to compete was greater, she wrote, as her sponsors told her, “How can we keep funding you if you have yet to actually be part of an Israeli delegation??” and, “I’m sure we can find a Rabbi who will tell you it’s ok.”

She said she “shocked herself” by actually breaking down enough to ask her rabbi if there was any way she could compete, but the answer was “no,” which did not surprise her and she accepted it.

Deutsch is now wondering, “Maybe this profession isn’t actually viable as an Orthodox Jew? Is there any room for religious accommodations in sport? … Can we respect religious beliefs amongst athletes?”

In 2021, Adidas chose the Jerusalem resident to be one of the faces of its “Impossible is Nothing” ad campaign due to her phenomenal success after taking up running just five years earlier, becoming Israel’s national marathon and half-marathon champion in 2019.

She has been unabashed about crediting God with her success from the beginning, saying, “Hashem [God] is with me every step of the way.”

The 33-year-old, who emigrated from the U.S. in 2008, also has a black belt in taekwondo to her credit. She is both a running and speaking sensation, who was chosen by the Jerusalem Post in 2019 as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world.

Deutsch uses her visibility to empower others through social media and personal appearances, and advocates for Beit Daniella, an organization that helps children struggling with mental health issues.