Submitted by Bill Cherny, Chaiway Riders member
Over the years many of the members of JMA have visited sites of Jewish history in Europe, on motorcycle trips and various tours. That history encompasses both joys and the tragedies of the Jewish people in the diaspora. There are places that still exist and continue to tell the story of the Jewish communities that thrived for hundreds of years in big cities and small villages.
My own journey back to the “old country” was in 2014. For me, it was part of a trip that involved picking up a college graduating daughter in Bremen, Germany and driving to Krakow, Poland. Prior to the trip I had accumulated family records and reports from family members who previously made the journey to the towns and villages just north of Krakow where my family lived for generations.
One of the things I discovered on that trip was that there was a Jewish Community Center in Krakow. It’s located in a section of Krakow know as Kazimierz, which prior to WWII was the center of Jewish religious and cultural life in the region. This JCC has a very special purpose, it provides the Jewish community there with a chance to connect to their Jewish Heritage through its many programs.
Last year as I was planning to go back to tour Europe (this time on a motorcycle) I found out that JCC Krakow has an annual event in June called the Ride for the Living or RTFL. The purpose RFTL is to honor those who perished in the Holocaust and to celebrate the rebuilding of Jewish life in Poland.
RFTL is primarily a fundraiser organized by JCC Krakow to support programing for 50+ Holocaust survivors who live in their community. The money raised also helps pay for ongoing programming for all ages in Jewish Krakowians of all ages, including Holocaust survivors, students, children and preschoolers.
Since the first RFTL in 2014, participants from all over the world have cycled, ran or walked the 60 miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau to JCC Krakow. Due to the covid-19 travel restrictions in 2020, the in-person program shifted online and participants symbolically traveled that distance wherever in the world they live.
Every year the number of participants have grown. Last year there were over 1.300 participants from 16 different countries registered to ride, run and walk in lieu of being able to travel to Krakow to participate. That event raised over $130,000.00.
This past February I connected, via zoom, with the JCC’s Executive Director, Jonathan Ornstein and Ryan Kaplan, the Director of External Relations, about their plans for the RFTL 2021. They were excited to hear about the JMA and the various fundraisers we do and were more than willing to help us in spreading the word to our group. As hard as it is to believe they had never heard of Jewish bikers! They were humored by our chapter names.
Due to ongoing travel concerns this year’s RFTL will again be virtual, through the newly coined RFTL “Global Challenge”. Jonathon and Ryan are excited to work with the JMA, Member Clubs and/or individual members in participating in the event. This is a great opportunity for us to fulfill the mission of JMA, whether we are able to participate in Poland or lend our support via a virtual ride.
Click on the link for details, updates, and to register for this year's event Ride For The Living Global Challenge
Hope to see you on the road!