HOKA fan Jared Goldman will embark on a challenging and personal journey this summer. On 10 August, Jared will start his 230km run across Belarus to learn about himself and the land of his ancestors. Read on to find out more about Jared and how he is is aiming to open doors to his past, present and future.
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. My dad is from East St. Louis, which is just over the Mississippi River in Illinois. We are not really sure why or how his grandparents ended up there. His grandfather was a shoemaker, and his father was a pharmacist.
They were Jewish immigrants. My great-grandfather arrived in America in 1910, bringing his son (my grandfather – pictured below) and wife three years later. From what I understand, this was very normal at the time, with the Russian pogroms and antisemitism on the rise.
I remember a few Jewish holidays growing up, going to their house and celebrating with them. I can remember the layout of the house, the bedroom, dining room, office. The memories come back the more that I think about it, even as I write this.
I was once given a big bag of silver dollars from them. This is the only thing, that I can remember them giving me, and that I still have to this day. They are so important to me as a family heirloom that I have them locked up in my mother’s safety deposit box at the bank in the United States.
My mother converted to Judaism after she married my father. As you can imagine, for my father to marry a gentile must have a been a major family topic. I would say that my mother took on the religion head on. Growing up, she was very active in the Jewish community in St. Louis and is still to this day.
When I was younger [Jared pictured above with his family], I had to go to Sunday school and Hebrew school and to have a Bar Mitzvah. This is where my rebellion started. I was mean and nasty to my mother, particularly since my parents were divorced, and felt that, even at that age, I wanted to be able to make my own religious choices. I was never sure that this was the one that I identified with.
I left to go traveling in 1999. One year was my mission, while looking for work to extend the party. I ended up in Berlin, far from where I grew up and far from my parents. This is how I wanted it.
But over the years, I started to forget why I had been angry and went back once a year to visit. I developed a deeper bond with my parents, and a genuine interested in my family history. I started asking more and more questions. Every time I visited, I would ask my dad to show me all his pictures and tell me about what he knew about his family.
There was always a bit of an unknown as to where my grandfather’s parents were from. The more I looked into it, I discovered they are originally from Belarus.
I found running some years ago. It changed my life, it sobered me up and it has taught me a lot about myself. Now I want to use this project to learn more about myself and my family by running through the birth country of my ancestors.
I want to pay respect to my family by doing something that I feel passionate about and to show them that I am not running away, but that I am running home.
I want to see and get a feel for where they are from. I want to discover Belarus by foot. I hope not to bring closure but to learn more about this land, and to find out more information about my family. I hope it does the opposite to closure. I hope that it opens up new doors to both the past, present and future.
Photo credit: Jared Goldman and Sandra Wickert