On March 18th, fifty bike riders from around the world will depart Jerusalem for the fourth annual Ride 4 Reform bike ride, embarking on a five day journey through Israel. Along the way these riders will see the country while rolling through hills, farms, fields, major highways, rivers, and cities. They will bond with each other through rough passages, long climbs up mountains, and while covered in dirt after a slippery fall. What brings all of these riders together initially is the bond that they all currently share – Progressive Judaism.
In America there are four major Jewish denominations: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist. Outside of North America, Reform Judaism is called Progressive Judaism. In Israel, very few people know that one can be a practicing Jew and not follow the Orthodox traditions. The average Israeli does not know what Progressive Judaism means, and most importantly what meaning it can bring to their lives as secular Jews.
These people face the challenge that in Israel the government only supports Orthodoxy. Progressive synagogues, schools, communities and rabbis are not funded by the government like the Orthodox, and thus rely on donations from members and from outsiders (like those on the Ride). Each of the fifty riders on this trip has made a pledge, both monetary and verbally. In the evenings after riding all day, we will visit Progressive synagogues and communities where we will bring a message of support. I will never forget the faces of the kindergarteners as we rode into a school where some of our money was being donated, or of the Rabbi who performs all services, classes, and even housed voting booths in a room the size of an American Reform Synagogues kitchen.
Two years ago NFTY became a snif (branch) of Netzer Olami which is the worldwide progressive youth movement. In addition to the many adults on the ride, last year we were joined by two riders from Noar Telem (the Israeli snif of Netzer Olami). I listened to their stories of kallot and social action experiences. I am privileged to have the opportunity to participate in such an incredible experience and one that allows me to advocate for something that is so important to the continuation of Progressive Judaism.
You can make a difference by organizing a solidarity bike ride with your congregation, by making a donation to the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and most importantly by spreading the message and spirit of Progressive Judaism. You can follow the progress of the Ride and read the live blog at www.riding4reform.org.
With hope for an equal Israel for all Jews.