The following guest post comes from Jillian Finkelstein, the daughter of 2010 Rider Alan Finkelstein.
For the past 38 years, my dad, Alan Finkelstein, has been an avid bicyclist. While I can’t say I share his passion for bicycling, I certainly look up to him not only for his athletic ability, but also for his ability to use his passion as a vehicle for charity. The first charity bike ride that he ever did was the MS 150: City to Shore, a 2-day bike ride supporting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, in 1999. Prior to that, bicycling was just something he considered a hobby, but the minute he learned about the MS150 he not only signed up for the ride but researched how he could be further involved in the event. He not only volunteered to be on the planning committee and serve as a safety rider, but also encouraged me to find ways to get involved. I helped out by making a webpage on expage.com for his riding team (side note: for anyone not familiar with Expage, it was basically the same format as Geocities, so it was pretty clear that the site was designed by a 12 year old), and by volunteering at a rest stop.
My dad also began participating in other charity bike rides, including the American Cancer Society ride, but in 2005, he learned about the Arava Institute & Hazon bike ride from some classmates of mine who spoke about their experience at my Midrasha Hebrew Junior College graduation. He immediately approached them after the ceremony to ask them questions about the ride and decided that he was determined to do the ride. It took 5 years to finally find the time, but he decided to participate in this year’s 2010 ride. It was his second time in Israel, as we had gone 3 years ago on a big Finkelstein family tour, but he was so excited to be able to experience Israel on the seat of his bike. I have to admit, I was pretty jealous when he signed up, but as much as it sounded like an incredible experience, riding 300 miles through the desert isn’t an easy feat. As a family we lived vicariously through my dad as he called each day to tell us about the ride and posted pictures as often as he could. I waited anxiously until the final day of the ride when he posted pictures of himself holding his bike over his head in the Red Sea, a ride tradition that he had been looking forward to for months.
I would have to say that the Arava Institute & Hazon bike ride has probably been one of the biggest highlights of my dad’s life, because not only was he able to combine is love of bicycling and tzedakah, he was able to do it in Israel. Back in the day I used to ride on the back of his bike, and while I’m a little too big for that now, I hope he knows that I look up to my dad and send my love and support with him wherever he rides.