Sara Felder calls it “The Torah of sweat.”
That’s probably how it will feel once she embarks on Hazon’s third annual California bike ride and retreat, set for May 10-13. The pedaling begins May 11 at Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, when riders can choose routes ranging from 30 to 80 miles. More riders will join in May 13 for rides of 30 or 50 miles that will include a crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Felder, a Bay Area juggler, actress and playwright, along with her 12-year-old son, Jesse Felder Noily, will take part in the ride, which will raise funds for Hazon, a Jewish environmental nonprofit. She’s over 50, and admits she initially signed up for the ride — her first of this magnitude — as a way to get in shape. She and her son have been doing regular huff-and-puff training rides to get ready.
But as she studied the agenda for the four-day event, she realized it also offered her a Jewish experience unlike any other.
“I got really into doing this ride as a way of exploring my Jewishness,” the Oakland resident said. “To be in community riding bicycles, to be outside in nature, it’s like the Torah of nature.”
Organizers certainly hope so. All food provided for the weekend is strictly kosher, with a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) among the staffers. After registration, dinner and an orientation on Thursday, May 10, there will be a Lag B’Omer bonfire.
And as the riders put down their kickstands for a relaxed Shabbat at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, there will be a variety of activities from which to choose, including traditional or pluralistic minyans, Jewish meditation, nature hikes, yoga, and discussions about Jewish agricultural wisdom and food justice.
“We’re a very seriously Jewish organization,” said Deborah Newbrun, Hazon’s Bay Area director. “Someone once asked me why not just have an environmental organization? Why Jewish? I think a national conversation about what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century has to include a sustainability ethos.”
Newbrun says this year planners made sure riders had a meaningful Shabbat between the two legs of the ride, and still be done in time to make it over to Mom’s for Mother’s Day on May 13. The ride is scheduled to end around 3 p.m. at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. As of April 30, nearly 90 people had signed up for the full ride, with others doing just one day.
In addition to supporting Hazon’s operating budget, monies raised on the ride will support major Jewish environmental organizations such as Urban Adamah and Wilderness Torah, both of Berkeley, and smaller ones, as well. Mini-grants will go to organizations like Amir, which installs garden projects at Jewish summer camps. Newbrun hopes this year’s ride will bring in around $90,000.
Felder and her son already have raised more than $2,300 of that total (riders are required to either raise or donate at least $1,000). Adam Berman, Urban Adamah’s executive director, was the leading fundraiser as of early this week, with $5,000 raised. A team called Ban2Ban, composed of Dylan and Michelle Ban of Foster City, had raised more than $2,200 each, with Daniella Ponet of Oakland and Elijah Jatovksky of JCHS not far behind.
“I love that [Hazon] supports community supported agriculture co-ops and local agencies,” Felder said. “It’s so homegrown.”
Though the ride welcomes novice cyclists as well as the more experienced, and includes rest stops every 15-20 miles and support vehicles, Felder wants to be sure to keep up, which is why she and her son have been training hard in advance.
“There’s something about doing it at my age,” she said. “People have asked me, ‘Are you really going to do that?’ I’m the one who normally drinks coffee and goes to museums, so the idea of being outside and riding a bicycle is so liberating.”
For more information about the ride, visit www.hazon.org.