Hillel hosts 5th Annual Ride to Provide

By Katie Landeck

Over 170 riders from all over Massachusetts gathered at the Hillel House yesterday for the 5th Annual ‘’Ride to Provide, a non–competitive charity bike ride that raises funds for alternative spring breaks, the birthright trip to Israel and small town community projects.  The event raised over $50,000 this year, according to the event’s website.

 Hillel House Development Director and Events Coordinator Courtney Pupkin said there were twice as many riders as in previous years and over 12 teams of riders.

“I am amazed by the turnout,” said Pupkin. “We have such a great community.”

The bike ride was advertised as a family event, not a race. As Executive Director of the Hillel House and Rabbi Saul Perlmutter told the riders before they took off: “Rule one, this is not a race. Rule two, enjoy the scenery, and rule three meet new people.”

Riders could choose from 9-, 18- and 36-mile routes that go through Amherst. The routes were meant to be scenic and easy to follow instead of challenging. Each turn of the route was marked with signs and all riders were given a map to follow.

“One person got lost the first year, so we made bigger signs,” said Pupkin. “It hasn’t been a problem since.”

 The ride attracted people from all over the state, including several riders from the Boston area. However, most riders were local, such as a team of riders from the Northampton synagogue Beit Ahavah.

“I’m here because it is a beautiful day, I like to bike ride and it is a good cause,” said Judi Wish, a member of the team of riders from Beit Ahavah.

Teams from nonprofit organizations, such as the synagogue, had the option of splitting all of the money they raised 50/50 with the Hillel House.

Wish and several other members of her team opted to take part in the longer 36-mile bike ride.

“It’s just double what I usually do,” said Wish. “You get to feel like you are part of a group.”

The money the Hillel House raised will be used to sponsor trips to do community service in places such as Uruguay, Nicaragua and New Orleans. Senior Ethan Sobel has been active at the Hillel House since his freshman year and has benefited from the programs. He has been able to travel to Israel and Ethiopia, thanks to money raised from the event.

“I’ve done the bike ride every year I have been at UMass,” said Sobel. “I am involved in Hillel and this is one of the ways I can give back for all of the gracious things they have given me.”

Sobel’s ride of choice was the 18-mile route. 

“I’ve always done the 18-mile one,” said Sobel. “There are some hills and some downward areas … The time goes by fast and it is a great ride.”

Incorporated into the ride was the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a weeklong holiday where participants are supposed to sleep in homemade structures called sukkahs. Riders stopped for donuts, granola bars and cider at the sukkah of a local family.

“We wanted to do something in keeping with holiday,” said Perlmutter, who explained that the ride also connected to the friendliness of the holiday,  and the message of community service.

 “In theory, a sukkah is supposed to be the major place of dwelling for seven days, but it is really a temporary dwelling,” said Perlmutter. “But people in New Orleans have been living in temporary dwellings since [Hurricane] Katrina, so we kind of connected this holiday with helping people get into their homes,” Perlmutter said, referring to the community service work the ride funds.

At the sukkah, members of the UMass women’s tennis team greeted and cheered for the riders. They also helped to bring supplies to the sukkah.

“We love doing community service,” said tennis player Gabriella Jannotta. “We try to volunteer two to three times in the fall, and if we can in the spring, but that is our busy season.”

 Also volunteering at the event were two bike technicians who worked at Competitive Edge Ski & Bike and the Valley Bike and Ski Werks.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]