Rabbis in a relay – strange but true!
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Rabbis in a relay – strange but true!

Why did 14 rabbis cycle 1400 miles across Britain?

A team of 14 rabbis cycling 1400 miles across Britain sounds ludicrous, but it happened – exactly ten years ago this month. The Rabbi Relay Ride, a cross-communal bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, was conceived at a meeting at London’s JHub in 2011 to discuss social action in the Jewish community. David Brown,  then  coordinator of the Jewish Social Action Forum, raised the subject of ‘The Year of the Bike’, as part of the Board of Deputies’ had a Big Green Jewish campaign. One plan was a video of different Rabbis singing Queen’s I Want To Ride My Bicycle against a green screen. I suggested recruiting rabbis who could each ride a one-day leg of an epic bike ride to raise money for charity. Three Rabbis in the meeting immediately volunteered to take part. My then-fiancé (now wife) Rachel told me I was mad. When I was at a book launch a month later, I heard then Chief Rabbi Sacks say: “It’s the messhugenahs who make things happen.” I felt vindicated.

Rabbi Harvey Belovski blew his shofar to start the ride from Land’s End visitor centre and three weeks on, Rabbi Natan Levy blew the same shofar at John O’Groats. I kissed the ground. Along the way, twelve other Rabbis pierced the air of various hotel car parks at horrendously early hours before we started our cycling for the day.  We rode in June, to get the maximum amount of daylight and riding time, but sometimes had to cycle through dreadful conditions to be sure we stuck to our schedule.

We had no budget for food, transport or accommodation, says Michael. A friend at The Sun bellowed at a contact at the Volkswagen press office and secured us a free support vehicle (nicknamed the ‘Noshwagon’). We got a good amount of press coverage and also arranged to have some Jewish cooks send kosher food packages sent to the most remote outposts. Ten years on, with more wisdom and weight under my belt, I’d consider trying to assemble another team for a coast-to-coast rabbinical fundraiser next summer. Anyone game? Get in touch. michael@greenhillbooks.com

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