By Stacey Dresner ~
AMHERST – Students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Hillel House and several Jewish organizations raised nearly $56,000 to benefit community service programs and environmentally friendly projects of UMass Hillel during the 5th Annual “Ride to Provide” on Sunday, Oct. 16. The Ride saw a boost in money raised from last year’s $40,000.
“The Ride brings together Jews of all ages from all over the Valley, and Boston too,” said Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, director of UMass Hillel and founder of Ride To Provide. “It’s healthy. It’s fun. We enjoyed a beautiful day and beautiful scenery. And this year’s Ride raised more money than ever, both for Hillel’s community service programs and environmentally friendly projects and for over 10 synagogues, day schools, and other Jewish community groups throughout the Valley. It doesn’t get much better than that!”
Riders – 197 in all from Jewish organizations from around Western Massachusetts – rode 9, 18, or 36 mile routes during the Ride. Besides enjoying the beauty along scenic country roads in Amherst, the riders made a snack stop at the sukkah at the home of Gail and Aaron Lansky, the executive director of the Yiddish Book Center.
A new feature this year was the option for non-profit organizations to form teams of five or more riders and split their fees and funds raised 50/50 between their organization and Hillel. Eleven teams from local Jewish organizations were formed: Beit Ahavah in Florence, Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton, the Jewish Community of Amherst, Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy in Longmeadow, Lander-Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, Temple Beth El in Springfield, Congregation B’nai Torah in Longmeadow, Chai BBYO, Heritage Academy in Longmeadow; Sons of Zion in Holyoke and UMass Koach.
“This was the most riders ever by far,” Perlmutter said. “The 50/50 helped a lot, but there were also new riders who were not part of the 50/50 split.”
The funds raised by the Ride to Provide in the past five years have enabled Hillel to send students to New Orleans every spring break since Hurricane Katrina, as well as to Uruguay, Nicaragua, Israel, and Argentina. Projects have included building a bridge to provide access to health care in rural Nicaragua, rebuilding homes and hope for victims of Hurricane Katrina, brightening the lives of orphans and elderly in Argentina, and refurbishing parks, homes, and gardens together with Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. Some 200 students have received subsidies generated by the Ride to Provide to enable them to participate in these intensive, meaningful and life-changing programs. UMass Hillel has been selected again by the JDC to do another community service trip to Israel in January.
The Ride also is a way for Jewish groups from around the area to bond,” Perlmutter said. “One of the riders wrote: ‘People ask how to bring the Jewish Communities in the Valley together. This is how!’”
“Thanks to all who made the Ride so fun and successful,” Perlmutter added. “Mark your calendars now for next year’s Ride – October 14, 2012. See you then!”
Photos by Ethan Vaill Bickford