New York — The efforts of three trailblazing young rabbis were recognized by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who issued an official proclamation yesterday declaring July 6, 2011 to be “Bike 4 Friendship Day.” The proclamation pays tribute to Bike 4 Friendship, the cross-country fundraising and awareness bike tour for the Friendship Circle.
Dani Saul, 22, Zalman Perlman, 22 and Shmuel Rothstein, 22, the three trailblazing young rabbis at the heart of Bike 4 Friendship, are out to raise heaven on Earth—and more than a little money and awareness towards children with special needs—in a slightly unorthodox way.
That’s because, besides having been ordained as Jewish religious authorities after months of rigorous study and testing, they’re also endurance-trained and competitive cyclists. And now, they’ll be pedaling across the country for the Friendship Circle—including yesterday’s brief stopover at New York City Hall followed by a send-off from about 25 family members and friends on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Thanks to assistance from Former NYC Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba, himself a big bike aficionado as Bike New York’s president and CEO, the threesome secured Bloomberg’s proclamation supporting the Friendship Circle and the Bike 4 Friendship ride.
Bike 4 Friendship, the nation’s first-ever coast-to-coast rabbinical bike ride, is intended to raise funds for Friendship Circle International, a division of The Shluchim Office. Friendship Circle International is a global movement that pairs teen volunteers with children with special needs for home visits, outings and other bonding opportunities.
“We’re ready for the rigors of the road,” says Rabbi Saul.
The young rabbis plan to conquer 100 to 120 miles each day in under seven hours. “We’ll still engage in our daily routine,” adds Saul. “We’ll get up and pray and study and then we’ll go out to find people to share the message of the Friendship Circle.”
Rabbi Saul also says they plan on touching base with 16 Friendship Circles nationwide on the trip. Several volunteers and families have already signed up to host the cyclists overnight.
The national tour officially kicked off this past Sunday, June 26, at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston, New Jersey, where 100 kids with autism and other special needs were presented with their own brand-new adaptive bicycles by Olivia’s Friendship Circle, the local Friendship Circle branch inspired by 11-year-old do-gooder Olivia Lefkovits.
The Friendship Circle also provides respite for families, recreational group programming, life skills training, winter and summer camps, athletic opportunities, and educational and social events for teen mentors through its International Volunteer Club program.
“We want to raise awareness about Friendship Circle but also to show people how each person can make a huge difference in the world,” says Saul. “We want to inspire others on our road trip in the same way.”
Spanning seven weeks and 4,000 miles, the holy rollers are asking everyone to symbolically ride along with them by sponsoring miles with $4 donations.
Founded in Detroit in 1995, Friendship Circle International now boasts 84 branches and 10,000 teen volunteers worldwide.
For more information or for live daily Blog/Twitter/Facebook updates, visit bike4friendship.com.
A special thank you to Rabbi Shea Hecht and Rochel Shemtov for their help in arranging for the proclamation.