Tour de Shuls-Connecticut Style (Bike Ride to Support Tikvah!)
June 10, 2010 by Howardb
Tour de Shuls...Connecticut styleConnecticut Jewish Ledger
Helping to give special needs kids a
By Cindy Mindell
For several years, the New
England Region of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs has raised money
to support the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England, one of the
first summer programs for Jewish campers with special needs.
in its 40th year, the pioneering Tikvah has inspired many off-shoots,
both within the Camp Ramah system and elsewhere. The program offers
three tracks: a full Ramah camping experience for 13- to 18-year-olds;
vocational training, socialization, and group-living experience for
graduates of the camping program; and inclusion of younger campers in
typical Ramah bunks. Many vocational-training graduates have been hired
to operate the on-site guesthouse.
Three years ago, the men's
club at Temple Aliyah in Needham, Mass. decided to take its fundraising
efforts further. Several members, all avid cyclists, had participated in
charity bike-a-thons and saw the model as a way to bring together
congregations throughout the area for community-building and tikkun
Tour de Shuls debuted in 2008, involving synagogues
throughout the Boston suburbs. The event raised more than $5,000 for
Tikvah, says program director Howard Blas, who lives in Woodbridge.The 2009 Tour de Shuls did the same.
That's when David Diamond of West Hartford learned about the benefit
bike ride. Diamond, then president of the men's club of Beth El Temple
in West Hartford, was attending a regional Jewish men's retreat at Camp
Ramah, "and I thought Tour de Shuls would be a phenomenal thing for our
community," he says. Diamond shared the idea with fellow Beth El
congregant Bruce Stanger of West Hartford, who serves on the Camp Ramah
of New England board and as co-chair of the Israel Ride, an annual
350-mile Jerusalem-to-Eilat bike ride. He has also ridden in the
Massachusetts Tour de Shuls. By December, a committee was in place,
co-chaired by Diamond and Lisa Sue Levin, also of West Hartford.
passionate about biking and tikkun olam," says Levin, a past co-chair
of Beth El's mitzvah day. "I'm excited and honored to co-chair the first
Tour de Shuls in Connecticut."
Levin recently attended the bar
mitzvah of a boy with autism, held at a summer camp. "Reading the Torah
in the woods in an outdoor sanctuary made me think about our event," she
says, "and how important it is to provide special-needs kids with the
opportunity to go to camp, learn about their Jewish background, and help
establish their Jewish identity."
The Connecticut event is
sponsored by the Connecticut Valley Region of the Federation of Jewish
Men's Clubs, with nine area synagogues providing volunteers and
Tour de Shuls kicks off at 8 a.m. at The Emanuel
Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Drive in West Hartford with a pre-ride breakfast.
Cyclists of all levels are welcome. There are four rides of varying
lengths available. All routes end at The Emanuel with a community
celebration including music and light refreshments. Snacks and water
will be provided along the routes. Pre-registrants will receive a
t-shirt and a water bottle. For more information and to register: www.tourdeshuls.org, or David
Diamond at firstname.lastname@example.org
/ (860) 673-6885 or Lisa Levin at email@example.com
/ (860) 675-7400.