JMA: More Than Its Acronym

Original article by Rabbi Seth D. Gordon May 21, 2019


JMA is for me, and I am sure for you, a new addition to the Jewish acronym dictionary.  It stands for Jewish Motorcycle Alliance, and on Friday, May 17, I joined 150 Jewish bikers for a breakfast, 2-hour ride, and a concluding lunch at the Jewish Federation building with a program at the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.  This was just one day of the JMA program that began on Thursday and ended on Sunday.

It was impressive from the start.  About 150 motorcycles were parked in front of Temple Israel.  The breakfast was intentionally kosher as were nearly all the meals, and Shabbat services were part of the program.  It was primarily because of the respect that fellow biker Steve Aroesty had for Torah, and had instituted into the program, that I decided to take part.  I am very glad I did.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect.   How many would be there?  How old would the bikers be and what would they look like and be like?  As I observed the riders entering the breakfast area, they looked even older than me -- grey-haired or hair-challenged (or both), a number with ponytails or long hair flowing backwards -- in biker clothing.  ( About 10% were women, some who rode on the backseat.)  The 1960’s!  Back to the Future! 

Standing near their bikes they might have been thought of as Hell’s Angels, but their patches gave them away.  Many wore Israeli flags, or Magen Davids, or Jewish words (“Never Again”-- some in Hebrew).  This was a decidedly proud Jewish group.

This was JMA’s annual ride.  Local groups rode in from Chicago and Cleveland, and from Florida, New York, and even from Arizona and California, and a few came in from Israel (with rented bikes).  Many were proudly wearing their local club jackets, shirts, and/or patches.  The St Louis event raised mone