This past Sunday was a very special day that will long be remembered by the campers and counselors at Camp HASC. About two dozen Jewish motorcyclists, representing the Chai Rider Motorcycle Club of New York, visited the campus in Parksville, New York. They helped break out the Color War, representing both the Gold and Silver teams. The children were excited to see and touch the Harleys, BMWs and Goldwings bikes, all with shiny chrome parts, loud horns and unique modern gadgetry.
The Chai Riders Motorcycle Club stays in touch with Jewish culture and religion. It organizes many benefit rides, packages food for the needy every Passover, shows support for disabled Israeli warriors in the “Belev Echad” ride and demonstrates Jewish pride by riding up Fifth Avenue in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade. The group brings joy to children with disabilities or chronic illnesses at Camp HASC, Camp Simcha and Camp Kaylie, visiting every summer. They also get together with their fellow Jewish motorcyclists from around the country at the annual Ride to Remember event, paying tribute to Holocaust museums and projects. This year’s get-together will take place in San Diego, supporting the Butterfly Project.
The children at Camp HASC were impressed that Jewish individuals actually ride motorcycles. They were surprised to learn that not all motorcyclists fit the image typically depicted in the media. We had a couple of rabbis riding motorcycles as well as doctors, businessmen and otherwise ordinary-looking men and women. Many of the counselors and staff told us that they secretly wished they could ride motorcycles, too.
The “Ari,” Rabbi Isaac Luria, was known to commune with nature, especially as he readied himself to welcome Shabbat. The Baal Shem Tov, the father of Hasidut, was also fond of communing with nature in order to heighten his level of spiritual awareness. Rabbi Yossi Laufer of Warwick, Rhode Island, once addressed the annual Jewish motorcyclist convention and opined that motorcyclists, too, have their own unique way to experience and interact with nature, heightening their level of spirituality. This is encapsulated by the experience of riding out in the open on a powerful motorcycle.
Leaving Camp HASC, the Jewish motorcyclists certainly felt they had attained a new spiritual high and gained “mitzvah credits” in heaven for having brightened the lives of these children. It was something that will always be remembered with a smile.
For more than 40 years, Camp HASC has served the Jewish community as the premier summer program for children and adults with special needs, including intellectual and physical disabilities. Camp HASC is unique in its ability to meet the complex personal, social, therapeutic and medical needs of its very special campers.
Rabbi Dr. Kuperberg is the proud president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of New York.