Rabbi Big Wheel completes S.F. half-marathon

Rabbi Yehuda Ferris in training

The rabbi of Chabad of the East Bay sometimes jokingly refers to himself as Yehuda “The Big Wheel” Ferris. Well, on July 27, “The Big Wheel” kept on turning.

Running in the half-marathon portion of the San Francisco Marathon, Ferris, 58, found the fortitude and strength to go the full 13.1 miles, raising more than $5,000 for a Chabad-run charity that serves the special-needs community. It was Ferris’ first time running a race of that distance.

Ferris and Rabbi Peretz Mochkin of Chabad of North Beach ran to raise money for Friendship Circle, which pairs teen volunteers with children with special needs. Team Friendship San Francisco’s 24 runners together raised more than $47,000, just shy of the $50,000 goal.

“We spent Shabbat together in the Holiday Inn in San Francisco psyching up for the race and sharing insights about the special-needs community,” Ferris said. They talked about “acceptance as individuals” and not making “judgments solely based on physical appearances.”

Rabbi Yehuda Ferris with his medal

Mochkin, 32, who had run the San Francisco half-mara-thon before, finished 4,370th out of 7,250 runners, raising more than $1,300 in pledges. Ferris, who trained for months on the sidewalks and streets of Berkeley, finished 7,017th, ahead of only six other runners in his men’s 50-59 division — but he made it!

Yes, it was his first marathon, “but not my last,” he said with a wink.

More donations are being accepted at www.sf.teamfriendship.org/yehudaferris and www.sf.teamfriendship.org/peretz. — j. staff