For generations, Jews have been the People of the Book. These days, it’s becoming more like “people of the bike.”
On May 9, Jewish Bay Area cyclists — already 73 are signed up — will initiate Northern California’s first Hazon ride, an event that has taken place annually since 2001 in New York and since 2003 in Israel.
The two-day ride will take cyclists from Petaluma through the Sonoma countryside on the first leg; on May 10 riders will continue making their way along the hills of Marin County, eventually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and arriving at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum for a celebratory closing ceremony.
Depending on the chosen route, cyclists will pedal anywhere from 60 to 125 miles over the two days.
“At no point will you feel on your own and out of your element because you’re never stuck — you’re doing this as part of a community,” said Lom Friedman, Hazon’s Bay Area regional director.
The Hazon California Bike Ride event will begin in earnest two days before everyone sets out on bicycles. Participants and crew will celebrate Shabbat together May 7 and 8 at Walker Creek Ranch near Petaluma. All meals will be kosher, and whenever possible produce will come from local farms.
Hazon is a N.Y.-based nonprofit that works to make the Jewish community healthier and more committed to a sustainable world. The organization holds a food conference every December in Monterey.
The food “is not considered a separate thing from the Hazon bike ride — it’s all integrated,” Friedman said. “We’re bringing together Jewish values, community, consciousness of food consumption and sources and transportation. One does not supercede the other. The ride brings it all together.”
Bill Futornick, 42, has already registered for the Northern California ride. He rode 280 miles in May 2009 in Hazon’s Israel ride, from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
Futornick lives in Redwood City and is the ritual director of Congregation Beth Jacob. Prior to training for the Israel ride, he drove his car everywhere. Now, he walks and rides his bike whenever possible.
“I see things a lot clearer and sharper,” Futornick said. “Our tradition tells us to slow down, to notice things, but we don’t always do it. … The Hazon ride helped me to do this.”
During the Northern California event, Futornick and his fellow cyclists will choose from traditional, musical and nature-based Shabbat services. They will be able to rest, swim, hike and learn about Jewish texts — beneath a canopy of redwoods.
“It’s always nice to get together with people from other parts of the Bay Area and see how much synergy there is,” he said.
On May 7, a biodiesel bus will transport riders from San Francisco to Petaluma. For those without bikes, Hazon will provide one at no extra cost.
Along the route, mechanics, medical professionals and volunteers will be ready to assist with flat tires, injuries and hunger. If any riders are feeling exhausted, a van can transport them (and their bikes) several miles down the road.
“It’s about challenging yourself, not killing yourself,” Friedman said. “We don’t expect people to have done this before, and we want everyone to feel they can stretch themselves — knowing that Hazon will be there to support them.”
Every adult who registers for the ride agrees to raise $1,000; each student $600. Since 2001, Hazon bike rides in Israel and New York have generated nearly $2 million for Jewish environmental causes.
Futornick raised more than $10,000 for the Israel ride. He intends to surpass the $1,000 minimum for the California ride.
The fundraising partially subsidizes the riders’ food and travel to and from San Francisco. The other big chunk will go to supporting Hazon and other Jewish environmental causes that riders and the community vote on.
Through April 2, voting on 30 Jewish environmental initiatives is taking place at www.hazon.org. The 10 with the most votes will receive donations from Hazon’s California ride.
“This goes beyond making a statement,” Friedman said. “This is putting your foot on the pedal and experiencing what it takes to transform yourself and a community.”
For information, registration and voting, visit www.hazon.org.