TORONTO — It’s not many events that will bring 400 Jewish motorcyclists to one place, but the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance’s (JMA) annual Ride 2 Remember managed to do just that last week.
The Ride 2 Remember is a yearly motorcycle tour that brings together Jewish biker groups from all over the world to raise money for Holocaust education. This year, the eighth annual ride was the first one to take place in Canada.
Despite the stormy weather, the ride had record attendance, with hundreds of bikers from Canada, the United States, Israel, England and Australia touring through the streets of Toronto to raise funds for the Holocaust Educator Study Tour. The program, which operates through the UJA Federation’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, works to bring non-Jewish teachers to the sites of the Holocaust in Europe and to teach them the tragic history of the Holocaust in a meaningful way.
“They will come back to their schools and impart their knowledge on their students,” said Gadi Prager, president of Toronto’s Yidden on Wheels (YOW), who hosted this year’s event. Prager stressed the importance of educating teachers about the Holocaust because of their ability to share the message with so many young people.
So far, the Holocaust Educator Study Tour, which is offered to 30 participants at a time, has had the funding to run in 2005, 2008 and 2010. The Ride 2 Remember fundraisers hope it will become a more frequently run program with their support.
The enthusiastic riders, clad in leather outfits stitched with group names like the “Chai Riders,” “Lost Tribe” and “Riders of Israel,” began their biking journey on May 31 in Ottawa. There, they met up with Christian motorcyclists at Parliament Hill for a “Never Again” pledge, organized by YOW.
The JMA motorcyclists then made their way to Toronto for the Ride 2 Remember the following morning. The ride kicked off at Shaar Shalom Synagogue, and, due to the wet and dangerous weather conditions, followed a shortened path with police escort to Holy Blossom Temple for a celebratory lunch.
“This is truly an authentic Jewish biker experience,” YOW’s Stephen Stein, the chair of the 2012 Ride 2 Remember organizing committee told the crowd at Holy Blossom. “We went to Shaar Shalom, we ate breakfast, we thought about what to do next and we came to lunch,” he said with a smile.
Among the speakers that afternoon were Susan Jackson, the executive director of Women’s Philanthropy at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Amir Gissin, the consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada.
“Riding a bike is probably the ultimate expression of freedom in western culture,” said Gissin, adding that the annual ride is a powerful and important opportunity for free people to remember those who lived without freedom.
“We have to make sure that it’s not just us who remember, but that it’s everybody else.”
For more information on the Holocaust Educator Study Tour and the Ride 2 Remember, visit http://holocaustcentre.com and click on Educators and Students.