By Rachel Yerkey, Hazon Social Work Intern
Why would 57 Jews ride 3,600 miles across the country on bicycles? Haven’t we wandered enough? This weekend, members of the Hazon Cross-USA Ride are arriving in the Twin Cities after 5 weeks of cycling from Seattle, WA. They are here for a few programs in the community, a restful Shabbat, and then they’ll be off for 5 more weeks of cycling to Washington, DC. But, again, why would anyone, Jew or not, want to cycle across the country?
Hazon means vision, and they are committed to creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond. The organization is one of the leading faith-based environmental organizations in the country and a driving force behind the growth of the New Jewish Food Movement. The ride brings attention to the farm bill, and educates riders and people in the communities they visit about local and national food production and policy initiatives.
“The Jewish community has always cared about social justice – and we’ve always loved food,” explains Nigel Savage, Hazon’s founder and E.D. “In the summer in which the Farm Bill is being considered by Congress, people need to know how strongly many people in the Jewish community feel about sustainable food systems.”
Riders come from all different places in life; young, old, new, and experienced. They have different reasons for riding, too. Julia Schlesinger, 19 from New York and an entering sophomore at Yale, said, “for me riding my bike helps me feel more connected to my body – it’s been my meditation practice for a year and I love to the feeling of community [among riders].”
Serene Victor, 65 of Newton, MA, is doing the ride to celebrate her 65th birthday and recent retirement.
“I am changing my understanding of what it means to be ‘old.’ It is exhilarating to feel myself in motion, strong and healthy, capable of extraordinary deeds. Biking gives me the opportunity to coexist with the landscape, rather than dominating it as one does in a car.
“When I am on my bike it matters which way the grass sways and leaves blow, the dust swirls, and the clouds move, and what that portends, and whether the horizon requires a climb or a descent. Even the debris on the side of the road tells a story. Finally, but certainly not least, I believe in Hazon’s mission to create a sustainable way of life and provide opportunities for committed Jews to become active and engaged with the world beyond ourselves because of our obligation as Jews.”
During their time in the Twin Cities, riders will be busy eating breakfast with farmer Mike Jacobs of Easy Bean Farm (one of the few Jewish farmers who supplies Hazon’s network of 60 Jewish Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects nationwide), celebrating Kabbalat Shabbat with preschoolers at the St. Paul JCC, touring the JCC Meditation Garden, eating lunch at Heidi’s Restaurant, sharing a Shabbat dinner at Beth Jacob Congregation, and learning about food, faith, and politics with Rabbi Morris Allen of Magen Tzedek. They would love for you to join them! More info about public events is available at hazon.org/twincities.
If hearing about the ride is inspiring, you can also join the riders for a few days, a few weeks, or the rest of the ride!
Rachel is a Masters in Social Work 2013 candidate in the University of Michigan’s Jewish Communal Leadership Program and is Hazon’s Social Work Intern. A Michigan native, she currently resides in Brooklyn, NY where she spends most of her free-time daydreaming about Lake Michigan.