For Rabbi Nathan Martin, biking and Judaism go hand in hand. Martin recalls nearly a decade ago stopping at a nearby synagogue in his bike gear to recite the Hallel prayer for Sukkot. He and fellow bikers had pedaled to the shul, lulavs and etrogs in tow.
For someone so tied to his bike and his religion, it's no surprise that Martin, director of student life at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, will be participating next month in Hazon's Jewish Environmental Bike Ride and Retreat for the third time. (For info, see hazon.org.)
Hazon is an environmental organization, which promotes education and advocacy for issues like food equity.
For Martin, Hazon's bike event is as much spiritual as physical. During his first retreat, he carried a special green-and-blue tallit, the same one that he'd brought with him on a six-month hike of the Pacific Crest trail, a trek he embarked on shortly before entering rabbinical school.
Martin is one of several Philadelphia-area Jews slated to head to New York for the 11th-annual ride and retreat on Labor Day weekend. The event, Sept. 2-5, is a fundraiser for the Jewish environmental movement — but is also meant to celebrate the organization's achievements.
Over the past decade, Hazon has allocated some $500,000 to 80 environmental groups.
Some two-dozen individuals from the region are registered, doubling the local participation over the past three years.
The Shabbaton portion of the weekend takes place at Camp Kinder Ring in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. Events include chal- lah baking, bicycle maintenance workshops and book discussions.
The biking begins Sunday and, after a break that evening, the journey finishes up Monday in Manhattan.
"I think the Shabbaton is a great community building piece," said RRC's Martin. "It brings together a lot of diverse Jewish communities under one roof."
RRC was one of the recipients of a Hazon grant this year to develop a course on food justice.
"We're excited to get the support of Hazon and to, hopefully, train rabbis to be more sensitive to the food-justice issue," said Martin. "I think we're facing challenges as human beings of how to help create a world in which people of different classes and economic backgrounds can have access to healthy food that is grown and distributed in ways that aren't damaging to the planet."
Andrea Platt of Wyncote will be participating with her husband and 12-year-old son. "Hazon reminds me of a simpler way of life," she said.
"The bike riding for me personally is secondary," Platt continued. "For me, the event is about being with my family for such an awesome organization. It's about what Hazon represents: bringing community together to show respect for our land."