Ride to Provide participants gear up for their bike ride.
Raising money through an organized bike ride is not a new concept, but taking that bike ride idea and incorporating shofar blowing and the lulav and etrog, traditional components of the holiday of Sukkot, may be a little unexpected.
On Sunday Sept. 30, University of Massachusetts Amherst Hillel brought students and community members together for their first annual “Ride to Provide,” a Sukkot-themed bike-ride fundraiser supporting community service and environmentally-friendly projects of UMass Hillel. The 75 riders, who raised approximately $30,000 through registration fees, sponsors and pledges, chose either a 10-mile long or 23-mile long bike loop through the autumn foliage.
“For an event like this you are limited to either the springtime or the fall,” said Betsy Bertuzzi, “Ride to Provide” chairperson and mother of UMass senior Matt Bertuzzi “Holding the event during Sukkot, while the leaves were starting to turn, presented us with an opportunity to bring together a little bit of everything: Judaism, fitness and beautiful scenery.”
Before the start of the ride, riders were treated to a shofar blowing and participated in a recitation of the travelers’ prayer and the shehechiyanu, a blessing thanking God for a particular moment of joy.
Along the way, two community members constructed their own sukkahs to serve as rest stops where riders were treated to snacks and rabbi-led presentations about Sukkot.
“Other bike rides may have rest stops,” said Bertuzzi. “But having our rest stops in sukkahs added special flare to the event.”
Some of the money raised through “Ride to Provide” will go toward sending a UMass Hillel delegation on Hillel’s 2008 Alternative Spring Break to Hurricane Katrina-ravaged areas.
“On Sukkot we are commanded to build and dwell in temporary shelters to remind us of the fragility of life,”said Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, executive director of UMass Hillel. “Ride to Provide is giving our students the chance to help others get back into their homes and out of the temporary shelters they have been in for the past two years.”
The event also will benefit Meals on Wheels; “Challah for a Dolla,” a program that raises money for Darfur relief through baking and selling of challahs; and installing the UMass Hillel building with energy-efficient light and heating.
“The event far exceeded our expectations,” Bertuzzi said. “People are already talking about being able to participate next year.”
Read about how other Hillels celebrated Sukkot:
Appalachian State University: Hillel celebrates first on-campus Sukkot
Middle Tennessee State University: Hillel hosts meal for Muslim students
North Carolina State: MSA and Hillel celebrate holidays through charity
William and Mary: Temporary Dwelling