The New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, also known as the Pine Barrens, played host on Sunday to Hazon Philadelphia’s inaugural environmental bike tour.
Hazon is a national organization that works to promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles within a Jewish context. The group holds annual biking tours in both Israel and New York, but this was the first ride catering to Philadelphia and South Jersey members.
“Today’s focus is about the environmental issues and how this all ties into Judaism,” said Lisa Kagel, a co-chair for Hazon Philadelphia’s advisory board, which was established in 2010.
“And having a good time,” chimed in Val Yasner, Kagel’s fellow co-chair.
Some 180 riders in an array of brightly colored spandex took off on 32- and 18-mile routes at the sound of a shofar blowing. Another group tackling a 56-mile course left earlier in the morning.
After the ride, participants gathered for lunch and outdoor activities during which they learned about Jewish environmentalism.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning than this and it’s for a good cause,” said Joel Elfman, a 57-year-old orthodontist from Cherry Hill, N.J.
Elfman was introduced to the Hazon fold last October when he participated in the group's two-day ride from Jerusalem to Mashabei Sadeh in the Negev region, which is coordinated in conjunction with the Arava Institute.
Hazon Philadelphia organizers said they raised enough money through sold-out registration fees for the New Jersey ride to cover their costs, but the event was intended to serve as a friend-raiser more than a fundraiser.
“The beauty is it brings people connected to Hazon from across the region, together,” said Mark Kaplan, who co-organized the event along with Val Yasner’s husband, Mike. “It’s about building community.”
Click the multimedia icon to the right for a video clip and photo gallery from the event.