His Oct. 19 visit to Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean was kind of a homecoming for Tom Peled. The 25-year-old Israeli was in New Jersey as the leader of a team biking across America to raise money for the Israel Cancer Research Fund.
The 3,000-mile ride from Los Angeles to New York made its next-to-last overnight stop in Monmouth County, where Peled, now studying political science at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, had lived as a boy when his father, Ramy, worked at Fort Monmouth. During that period, Tom’s mother, Tamar, taught at Hillel Yeshiva for 10 years.
Peled told NJJN his return was inspired by his father’s death in January 2011. The elder Peled had battled a rare form of abdominal cancer for eight years, often dealing with excruciating pain, yet always maintaining a determinedly optimistic viewpoint.
Devastated by his father’s passing, Tom eventually channeled his grief into something positive. “I flew to Berlin, bought a bicycle, and began a solitary bike tour that spanned 3,000 miles and took me to six countries,” he said. “When I realized how much good the trip had done for me, clearing my head and helping me to accept what had happened, I began to look for a way to make a similar effort pay off for others — especially for victims of cancer.”
Peled connected with the ICRF, and together they established the Bike for the Fight team. Major supporters of the effort include Hillel Maccabiah 2012 and Microsoft Israel, as well as President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. More than a dozen other firms and organizations also are on board.
Joining Peled in the cross-country U.S. tour were Roey Peleg, a fellow cyclist, his childhood friend Eran Rozen, and another student, Luca Seres, who followed in a support car. Along the way, other riders linked up for shorter legs of the journey. For example, when Bike for the Fight visited Hillel Yeshiva, they were accompanied by Dror Malovani, an Israeli on leave from Microsoft Israel, and Ethan Nehemia, yet another student at the Interdisciplinary Center. Malovani and Nehemia had joined the ride in Pennsylvania.
During their three months on the road, the team rode about six hours a day. At night, they sometimes camped out under the stars and sometimes stayed with families or at facilities run by Jewish organizations.
When they reached Hillel Yeshiva, they were the featured guests at an assembly attended by some 200 students. They also spent an hour in the honors Hebrew class taught by Miriam Harary, who had been a friend of the Peled family during their stay in Monmouth.
Tom Peled also had a surprise visitor. His mother flew in from Israel so that she could be with him at the end of his long journey.
Overall, said Peled, Bike for the Fight raised nearly $100,000 by the time the team reached New Jersey, and with the ride to the finish in New York, he and his team were hoping to go over that threshold.
Peled said, “It would be very satisfying to reach this goal. ICRF makes grants of $25,000 each to promising research efforts, and this would enable us to fund four grants.”
At the Hillel Yeshiva assembly, which was hosted by head of school Rabbi Howard Bald, Peled and Peleg answered a barrage of questions from students. One wanted to know how they managed to stay safe while biking on heavily trafficked highways. Peleg responded, “Drivers are more understanding in the U.S. than they are in Israel.”