There will be 50,000 runners taking on Sunday’s New York City Marathon, and an equal number of stories that are steeped in inspiration. One will be that of Rochelle Goldschmiedt, who is honoring her 88-year-old mother and Holocaust survivor Devorah Hilsenrath.
Goldschmiedt, a retired personal trainer from Teaneck, New Jersey, will run the legendary course for the third time with “A13480” tattooed in henna on her arm, which was her mother’s identification number at Auschwitz.
Hilsenrath, who was 14 years old at the time, lost her mother, father and two siblings in the horrendous concentration camp. She was the only surviving member of her family.
“Running the marathon was a huge challenge for me, not only physically but emotionally. Everybody has challenges in their life but I feel that if you have the sheer will and determination emotionally to overcome something, it can be done,” Goldschmiedt told NorthJersey.com. “Seeing the horror that my mother went through and the fact that she survived and moved on and had a family and has children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren shows that anybody can be survivor and go on to thrive in their life.”
Goldschmiedt will also run with “Gabriella” on her shirt to honor her mother’s younger sister.
“The spectators will call her name over and over again,” Goldschmiedt said. “Every time they mention her name will keep her memory alive.”
Just prior to her first NYC Marathon, Goldschmiedt called her mother and asked for the number that defined such a painful childhood.
“I was perplexed: Why would Rochelle want to know my Auschwitz number?” Hilsenrath explained in New Jersey Jewish News. “Rochelle answered, ‘Mom, I want to tattoo your number into my arm with henna. In case I get too exhausted to continue, your number will remind me of the hardship and peril you endured and will encourage me to go on.’
“What a profound thought to find inspiration to run on, to reach the finish line. I was stunned and deeply moved.”
She crossed the finish line, and did the same thing with the henna tattoo for that year’s New York Triathlon all while raising money for Sharsheret, an organization that helps Jewish women suffering from breast cancer.
She will be recognized Friday during the race’s opening ceremony as part of Team #MovedMe, which profiles runners who “emotionally move family, friends, and spectators and encourage them to take on their own challenges.”
For Goldschmiedt, the weekend will be emotionally charged, with this year’s marathon taking place shortly after the horrific shooting at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead.
“One Jewish person killed is like killing a thousand of us because we lost so many,” she told NorthJersey.com. “How can this happen in America?”