MatzohBall 5K Brings in Funds and Fun

Onlookers wait at the finish line. (Heather M. Ross)
Onlookers at the MatzohBall 5K

The MatzohBall 5K and Fun Run, sponsored by Temple Isaiah, is more than just a race.

It’s a community event that raises funds for Howard County charities, and it also includes some unique features, such as the “Running of the Rabbis,” the MatzohBelles cheering the runners on and coupons for matzah ball soup.

On June 4, hundreds of people from Howard County and the surrounding areas ran together in the annual event at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

The race began and ended at the Howard County Wellness Day fair, where vendors from a variety of local organizations, including the YMCA, Fire and Rescue and more, host booths for community members to learn about and get familiar with local health and wellness resources.

This year’s race’s theme was “Born to Run Together,” emphasizing diversity and inclusion.

According to the race and fair organizers, Lisa and Brian Jolles, the community event is entirely volunteer run. The Temple Isaiah Men’s Club provides most of the event’s 80 volunteers, but they also receive a lot of support from other Temple Isaiah groups, including the Sisterhood and Renaissance Group, as well as other synagogue members and the broader Howard County community.

The volunteers are involved every step of the way, Lisa Jolles said. They market the event, organize donations, pack race bags, help with packet pick up, act as course marshals and photographers, manage parking, help set up booths and more.

One of the volunteers, Larry Levin, has volunteered to help with the 5K every year since its inception 19 years ago.

“I love it,” Levin said. “It’s a sense of giving back to the community.”

The community event, which is open to everyone, raises money to support several Howard County services. The proceeds go to three Howard County charities: Grassroots Crisis Intervention, DreamBuilders and HopeWorks.

According to Lisa Jolles, the MatzohBall 5K has raised nearly $100,000 for these charities since 2014, including this year’s race.

This total is composed of about $10,000 annually, Brian Jolles said.

Grassroots Crisis Intervention operates a 24-hour crisis intervention and supportive counseling hotline. According to the organization’s website, Grassroots hotline/walk-in programs serve as the single point of entry for the county’s Coordinated System of Homeless Services.

DreamBuilders is a multifaith Maryland group that organizes and participates in construction-based mission projects. Locally, this organization partners with Arc of Howard County, whose mission is to improve the lives of children and adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

And finally, HopeWorks of Howard County provides services to local families affected by domestic or sexual violence and raises awareness in the community.

While the Jolles family is too busy organizing and officiating to run, the pair still has fun.

Lisa Jolles’ favorite part is “the camaraderie, and experiencing so many people give generously of their time and skills,” she said.

One of the race’s community highlights is the “Running of the Rabbis,” a tradition that Lisa Jolles described as “more theatrical than physical.” This part of the event is a miniature race where the Temple Isaiah rabbis race against a young person dressed up as a matzah ball, and, of course, the matzah ball always wins.

“Everyone enjoys the antics,” Lisa Jolles said. “Next year, we’ll have three rabbis as TI hired a new female rabbi starting this summer. We’d love to invite all rabbis to feel welcome to participate.”

Along the 5K’s course, race participants aren’t alone. In addition to the support they receive from one another, they’re cheered on by the MatzohBelles, a group of women who stand along the track and ring bells to encourage the runners as they pass.

In addition, the runners received coupons to enjoy a bowl of matzah ball soup from Mikey & Mel’s Famous Deli in Fulton. The deli provided the coupons.

While soup and community involvement are both compelling reasons to run, other runners had their own motives.

“It’s fun,” said 5-year-old Jacob McCarthy, who proudly sported his medal. Jacob also said he was looking forward to playing on the inflatables at the end.

The runner who placed first was incoming college student Zachary Shord, who ran competitively in high school.

Medals were distributed for first, second and third place for men’s and women’s categories in groups also separated by age.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here