Emily Brophy and other Run for Their Lives members share a tribute to Oded Lifshitz, 83, who is being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Running for the lives of the hostages held by Hamas

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Running for the lives of the hostages held by Hamas

Emily Brophy and other Run for Their Lives members share a tribute to Oded Lifshitz, 83, who is being held by Hamas in Gaza.

On Oct. 7, Emily Brophy was on her way to visit a friend in Long Island. As soon as her phone lit up with the news from Israel about the Hamas attacks, she couldn’t focus on anything else.

Brophy, 31, who lives in West Roxbury, cut her trip short and came home to join the rally for Israel on Boston Common, held just two days later.

“I just needed to be with my people, and I just needed community,” she said. “What happened in Israel broke me, and I’m still healing.”

Brophy, who spent four months as a college student living in Jerusalem, knew she couldn’t just sit on the sidelines watching the war from a distance. On Instagram, she heard Rachel Goldberg, mother of American-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, encourage people to join Run for Their Lives, a group organizing global weekly run/walk events calling for the immediate release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Brophy found the local Run for Their Lives chapter – which had been started by Rachel Greenberg, a 32-year-old from South Boston – and immediately jumped in to help. Although she didn’t know anyone in the group, Brophy said she felt welcomed and proud to be able to use her voice to make a difference.

“I thought a lot of my Jewish friends were going to have the same feelings I did when Oct. 7 happened,” Brophy said. “I realized I was wrong. People were moving on, just turning off the news and looking away from Instagram. I couldn’t do that. I was so glad to find this group, to find people who feel the same way I do.”

Run for Their Lives was started by a group of Israelis in the Bay Area of California, in collaboration with the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, which posts under #BringThemHomeNow on social media. The movement has spread across the country – and the globe – with local communities organizing weekly run/walk events that last approximately 18 minutes, or chai, the number representing “life” in Hebrew.

Group members are encouraged to wear either official Run for Their Lives shirts or red shirts, and carry signs and banners, as well as flags of the countries whose citizens are among the hostages.

The Boston-area group has been meeting weekly in Newton Centre since mid-December. For security reasons, the exact location is shared with people only after they’ve requested the information, and have been vetted through either WhatsApp or Facebook. In Massachusetts, there are also Run for Their Lives chapters in Bedford, Natick, and Shrewsbury.

Greenberg, a two-time marathoner, heard about Run for Their Lives from her mother in New York. She said she felt moved to start a local chapter.

“I wanted to help remind people that the hostages are innocent human beings who are just like any of us, or our family members,” Greenberg said. “Their voices are silenced now. In their absence, we can share their stories and be their voices.”

About 40 people of all ages, some with dogs and strollers in tow, now join the weekly meet-up, which consists of a 15-minute program highlighting a specific hostage or group of hostages before the run/walk. The group also shares social media content to increase awareness about the hostages and their stories.

“I don’t know a lot about politics or war, but I know that those who were taken hostage were civilians at a music festival and people who were in their beds,” said Greenberg’s twin, Elana, who lives in Brookline. “It’s been important to me to help get that message out there.”

In addition to the weekly meet-ups in Newton, group member Aylit Schultz, 48, has worked with Harvard Chabad and other local partners – including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Israeli-American Council, Hadassah, American Jewish Committee New England, and Anti-Defamation League New England – to organize larger awareness events, including a rally in Cambridge that drew about 1,400 to mark the 100th day of the hostages’ captivity in January.

“The Jewish community has been tremendously supportive, with an outpouring of offers to volunteer and help,” said Schultz. “Many non-Jewish individuals and organizations have also offered heartwarming support, donating supplies and services for our events.”

Schultz’s grandmother survived the Holocaust by hiding underground with the help of a righteous gentile. “When I picture the hostages in the Hamas tunnels, the parallels haunt me,” Schultz said. “The question is, ‘Why is this seemingly unimportant to the rest of the world? How is the world so silent?’ ” Θ

To learn more, visit run4lives.org. For details on the Boston-area weekly meet-up, email r4tlboston@gmail.com.

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