Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler led the cheers for the bikers as they pedaled into the driveway at Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David.
There they took breaks, rehydrated, and had snacks before continuing their 175-mile ride.
For the first time, the West Orange synagogue served on the two-day “Bike4Chai” ride benefitting Chai Lifeline and the seriously ill children attending its Camp Simcha in Glen Spey, NY.
AABJ&D forged a relationship with the group earlier this year, after several children in the community fell ill.
“Chai Lifeline was the go-to organization for their families, and we wanted to do something to give back,” said Zwickler, after shouting a welcoming cheer to an incoming rider.
The synagogue, which held a Shabbaton on Chai Lifeline’s behalf in April, is some 55 miles from the ride’s starting point in Asbury Park.
Through the afternoon of July 31, the bikers came in bursts and trickles, some riders stopping just long enough to take a drink and continue on, others taking a longer break to rest and nurse aching muscles.
Mickey Abraham of Deal, 71, the oldest rider to participate this year, was taking part for the second time. His grandson, Morris Kishk, 22, of Brooklyn was riding with him. “It’s tough for me,” said Abraham. “But I’m doing it to inspire my grandchildren and spend time with them.”
The ride, which raised $2.8 million last year, has already brought in $2.725 million as of Aug. 5, with money still being donated. Abraham himself has raised about $60,000 of that total.
Avi Korman, a triathlete from Lawrence, NY, arrived at AABJ&D with his father, Jerold. The younger Korman said the biking was easy for him, while his father laughed and quipped that Avi took every hill three times while waiting for him.
Most acknowledged that the biggest challenge was the hilly terrain. “It’s an excellent, awesome experience,” said Jack Rahmey of Brooklyn, “but the hills are torture.”
Most riders participate to help the kids at camp, who attend for free. Chaim Tabak of Brooklyn has been a volunteer at Chai Lifeline for nine years, and often drives patients to and from the hospital. “I know why I’m doing this and it’s totally worth it,” he said. “I know lots of patients and helping these families is so meaningful.” he said. He raised more than $6,800.
Scott Farrell of North Woodmere, NY, was taking part in memory of a family friend, Sari Ort of New Milford, a camper at Camp Simcha who died when she was 12. “She was a courageous, wonderful girl,” he said, “and I’m honored to be riding in her memory.”
Reflecting on his experience from last year, Abraham pointed out that the best part of the ride happens at the end. “Once you have the experience of riding into camp and seeing how excited the children get and how appreciative they are that we are doing this for them — you really get a rush. It’s very exciting!”