May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bike4Chai as a Model For the Jewish World

Bike4Chai is a two-day event when Jews from all walks of life transform into a unified team of bikers. Instead of wearing black hats, knit kippahs or no head coverings at all, we wear bike helmets. Instead of black shirts and white pants or shorts and a T-shirt, we all wear the same yellow bicycle shorts and jersey. We are a united team of Jewish men all together for the same purpose. Most of the time we are separated into our different groupings, but here, we are able to work together.

This past week I completed my sixth annual Bike4Chai ride to raise money for Chai Lifeline. This is a highlight of my year and always one of the best and hardest bicycle rides. Overall, the ride raised over $12 million for Chai Lifeline and their flagship program, Camp Simcha. While the cause and the fundraising is incredibly important, the achdus created by the ride is as important, if not more important.

Picture this: Hundreds of bikers riding en masse through the Poconos and Catskills in a wave of fluorescent yellow. Afterwards, after changing into my typical summer outfit of a polo shirt, shorts and sandals, I was approached in the parking lot by a chasidic Jew dressed in his typical levush who asked if I could join him for a Mincha minyan. I asked this man if he was a rider and he said that he indeed had done the ride; however, the only evidence that remained was the yellow socks hidden under his black pants. At that moment, I had an awakening.

Ten minutes before, this chasidic man and I were wearing the identical outfit and biking together for a shared goal and cause. We were two Jews biking to the World’s Greatest Finish Line. Now we looked totally different. If we passed each other in our hometowns, we would not even give each other a glance since we are from totally different worlds.

There were other examples of achdus during the Bike4Chai experience. The ride is always held on a Thursday, so there is a need for a Torah for Shacharis. This time, the only Torah that was brought to the hotel was a beautiful Sephardic Torah that was used for both Ashkenazi and Sephardic minyanim. Even though the text of the Torah is the same for both Asheknazim and Sephardim, how often do we daven together or use each other’s Sifrei Torah?

Along the bike ride, there are rest stops to refuel our bodies. These stops are staffed by chasidic teenagers who are the nicest and most helpful people you would ever meet. Every time I pulled into a rest stop, someone raced up to me and asked me what I wanted in my water bottle and what snack they could get me. These bochrim spent their entire day volunteering to fill up other people’s water bottles, and did it with a big smile. Apart from Bike4Chai, when else do I have an opportunity to interact with these wonderful Jews from totally different places?

The message of all of this is that as Jews, we get too caught up in our particular derachim and hashkafa. It does not matter if you are Ashkenazi or Sephardic, chasidic or modern, from Teaneck or Lakewood. At our core, we are all the same, just avdei Hashem. There need to be more occasions when we forget our differences and stick to our proverbial yellow biking kit.


Jeffrey Rosenfeld lives in Bergenfield with his family. Donations for Bike4Chai can be made at https://www.bike4chai.com/rosenfeld

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