April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Helmets, Bikers and Mitzvot a la Jay Leno

It was always quite unusual for a “nice Jewish boy” to have a motorcycle or a motorbike. Black jackets with some type of insignia on their backs usually were associated with a biker gang. In Canada, the most well-known of them are the Hells Angels. At least once a month, on the news, there was some sort of trial going on involving a member of the group. We know that there are today Jewish biker groups that ride for fundraising events, but we do not hear about them frequently, and in our community we know of no one who is a member of such a group.

To give you an idea of how “un-Jewish” it was to ride a bike or have a motor scooter years ago, we will let you in on a family secret. Just a few months after we were married, we became the proud owners of a Lambretta, which is a motor scooter. It wasn’t exactly a mutual decision. One day, Nina arrived home to find that her husband had bought her “a little treat.” That little treat, even though it was relatively small, still had to be moved each day when it was parked outside of our apartment building across the street from Yeshiva University because we had to adhere to alternate side of the street parking regulations as if it were a car; the only advantage being that it could squeeze into just about anything. Imagine riding in midtown Manhattan on a small scooter when the light suddenly turns red. The passenger rider (always Nina) had a NYC bus literally two feet behind her head and back. It was not a comforting feeling (to say the least). This family secret stayed between us—our dear parents, who are no longer alive, would have died instantly had they known that we had made this purchase. It was absolutely unheard of at the time for a young, frum couple to use this mode of transportation. Yarmulkas bobby-pinned on securely and tichels tied down substantially, we were off. The pregnancy with our first child curtailed our activity on the scooter, baruch Hashem.

Fast forward to so many years later, and it is still a rare sight to see an observant couple zooming along on a scooter. There is, however, one place where motorcycles and their drivers are making the news as they scoot all over the streets of Israel saving people’s lives and performing chesed hundreds of times a day. In a new light, Yiddishe mamas take pride in the actions of their sons, husbands and grandsons who have become volunteers for United Hatzalah of Israel. Women are also becoming more involved in this enormous chesed. Riding on bright red bikes with their helmets securely fastened to their heads, they carry with them a medical plethora of life-saving machinery. Any of us who have been to Israel recently have seen them. The question is just how many of us consider what it must cost to maintain and finance this operation.

On Sunday evening, Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel, for the first time in North America, sponsored a fundraising evening at the Jazz (a building belonging to Lincoln Center). The entertainment did not matter to us as much as the message that the evening carried. It was a panic to see Jay Leno ride onto the stage in a Hatzalah ambucycle. He wore the helmet and a Hatzalah vest and fit right in. After his presentation, which we nervously listened to, we were extraordinarily moved when he invited Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, to the stage and told him that he was writing a check for $36,000—the cost of one fully equipped bike. His next step, we felt, was even more astounding. He challenged the audience that for anyone who would donate $1,000 toward the purchase of another bike, he would invite them to Los Angeles to show them his private garage and give them a private tour of his motorcycle collection as well as, we believe, his extensive collection of prize-winning automobiles. Hands were going up all over the place. Before the evening was over, Hatzalah had collected an additional $50,000 due to the generosity of Leno.

Our suggestion to all of the many organizations that are looking to hire fundraisers, is that they need to turn to the West Coast. It did not take 10 minutes to raise $50,000. Leno closed with “See you next year in Jerusalem.” Wow—when we are quick in criticizing the lifestyles of the Hollywood set, let’s remember that there are amazing generous souls there, and Jay Leno definitely topped our list.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick

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