School hosts blue carpet event for cross country team


Abby Chesman, Dimensions

Silberman, Hawkings, and Belinkie answer questions from audience members during the event.

Mia Forseter, Reporter

In past years members of the CESJDS cross country team have been faced with a difficult decision. Many of the more observant members of the team had to choose whether or not to run in the state championship, which had previously fallen on Shabbat.

This past Sunday, parents, runners, friends and faculty all came together for a special blue carpet event to screen the ESPN feature on JDS Alum Oliver Ferber ‘23 and his decision to not race in the 2021 state championship.

“I’m not an overly religious person myself, and for me, personally, I was just very impressed with how firm Oliver was in his convictions,” producer and director of the feature Harry Hawkings said. “…For someone that young to have to be that firm in their religious conviction was admirable to me and I thought it presented a story that our viewers and readers would connect with.”

But Ferber’s decision was not the start of the story. In 2017, the boys varsity cross country team won a state championship led by three shomer shabbat runners. Head coach Jason Belinkie wrote a story about that team, and after being told that they might want to write a movie about it (which is a still ongoing process), Belinkie was connected to Hawkings.

“[Hawkings] was like, this is unbelievable, but this happened in 2017. That’s years and years and eons ago, we’re focused on right now and what’s happening right now,” Belinkie said during a panel at the blue carpet. “And my response to him was it’s still happening right now, so it’s clearly still a story.”

In the past, many runners at JDS have chosen to run on Shabbat, doing things such as staying overnight in hotels and walking in the freezing rain to get to a race. What made Ferber’s decision so different from others was that he chose not to race, and his parents didn’t agree with his decision. Since there are many different instances of similar occurrences on the team, there were many different ways ESPN considered creating the feature, but eventually they picked Ferber’s story.

The seven minute feature told the story of Ferber’s decision not to run, and how he and Belinkie managed to convince Greg Dunston, the state meet director, to move the race to Sunday. After the screening, there was a panel with Belinkie, Ferber, Hawkings, the Global Sports Correspondent for ESPN Sam Borden and Director of Athletics Becky Silberman.

“The cool thing is that different people can get different things out of it depending on how they see it,” Ferber said during the panel. “…A lot of people get standing up for what you believe in, and standing up for [your] principles and that it’s okay to stand firm in something even if it’s not a popular opinion…There’s so much that can be taken away and it really depends on who [it is] and what sticks with them.”

Not only did moving the race to Sunday affect the boys team, as it allowed Ferber to run; but one of the top runners on the girls varsity team, Mali Osofosky, would not have run had the race stayed on Saturday.

The event, hosted by Geoff Chesman, Devorah Berman and Danielle Jeweler of the Athletics Booster Club celebrated the work that Ferber, Belinkie and Hawkings put into this feature and the team. It was the first time for Hawkings that a similar carpet event had happened for his work creating features.

“One of the best kinds of outcomes of this feature is that people are talking about it,” Belinkie said. “They’re not just talking about it on our team, they’re talking about [it in] a much broader community.”