The dozens of biking enthusiasts riding some 34 miles across Metro Detroit early this past Sunday are hitting the pavement to help others boost Jewish life overseas.
They’re participating in “Detroit Ride for the Living,” a fundraiser to support the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, Poland. It’s considered a satellite ride for an annual event in Europe. Launched in 2014, “Ride of the Living” draws cyclists from around the world to trek from the Auschwitz concentration camp site to the Polish city to commemorate Jews’ history as well as their rebirth in that nation.
Plans for the ride formed after the Krakow center’s director met with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Event co-chair Jordan Weiss had also crossed paths with him during a trip to Poland last year as part of a fellowship program under the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The 31-year-old NEXTGen Detroit executive board member witnessed firsthand the burgeoning Jewish community in a place where the demographic had historically faced targeting.
“I was so close to the largest concentration camp of” World War II, Weiss said. “And I was really shocked and it was a really intriguing and terrific experience to be there and spend Sabbath and eat dinner with a number of other Jewish community members.”
Hosted by NEXTGen Detroit as well as the Israel and Overseas departments of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the local Ride for the Living leaves from the Huntington Woods Recreation Center and travels to the Detroit River and back.
“We have a wonderful biking community and it is so nice to be able to get people together from all skill levels to ride and support a great cause,” said Judy Lansky, one of the participants. “We are also lucky to be able to go through some neighborhoods that were historically very Jewish (Sherwood Forest and Boston Edison) and ride through history!”
The event has sparked interest among area residents who want to connect with a movement, Weiss said. “They are intrigued by an opportunity to support an organization that mirrors in many ways ones we have in Metro Detroit. There’s a large contingent of this community that has its origins in Poland and Eastern Europe. Many people kind of think that the Jewish life there has gone away, and this is really terrific opportunity to show that it hasn’t.”