This past April, Cycle for Unity organized a group from around the world for a bike tour through Tuscany to raise money for various charitable organizations. “It was our greatest event yet,” said CFU founder Rabbi Ari Solomont, “and will serve as a launching point for future trips.”
Cycle for Unity is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization that aims to encourage adventurous and exercise-conscious young adults and professionals to become excited about giving, learning and connecting to Jewish life through inspirational and challenging cycling adventures. Participants contribute to the cost of travel and help raise money for a charity of their choice.
Joseph Gitler, a graduate of Yeshiva University and Fordham Law School, and the founder and chairman of the charity Leket Israel, said that cycling with CFU was the “perfect way to combine raising money, finding new friends and exercising.”
For Alon Shvut resident Rocky Brody, the program was an amazing experience. “Cycling is a real love of my life,” said Brody. “I met Ari a few years ago riding with Wheels of Love [a cycling fundraiser for ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem], and when he reached out about his plans for a Tuscany trip I was happy to help and join the journey.” Brody, who lived in a number of different cities in America moved to Alon Shvut thirteen years ago with her husband and six sons. She now works as a mosaic artist and was riding to raise money for ALYN Hospital.
Since its formation in 2012, Cycle for Unity has raised over $250,000 for approximately 45 different charities. “That is what makes CFU different,” said Solomont. “We empower our riders, our Charitable Champions, to choose their own charities, which in turn inspires them to power through the more challenging aspects of the journey, and continue giving to other organizations in the future.”
Brody agreed with that idea. “One of the best aspects of Cycle for Unity is the ability to choose your own charity,” said Brody.
In addition to the fundraising aspects of the program, the trip also acts as a tour of the area and bonding experience for the participants who see the country in its natural element, biking through local streets instead of bussing from one destination to the next.
“My husband and I went on the program for our 25th anniversary,” said Robin Rochlin of Teaneck. “We wanted to go to Tuscany and this allowed us to contribute to a greater cause as well.” Rochlin and her husband were both casual cyclists before participating in the program but have been inspired to continue cycling.
“It was the trip of a lifetime,” said Meir Raskas, a director at the Harbor Group, a commercial real estate firm, and a Baltimore resident who was raising money for Chai Lifeline. “The group I travelled with was just amazing.” As for the logistics of cycling in a foreign country with limited kosher options, he said that “it was run as a top-notch professional program. It is the perfect trip for anyone who wants to experience a new country, and raise money for charity.”
“The group we had was from all over the world, everybody really got along. I was very impressed,” Brody said of the participants. “There was a camaraderie amongst the group,” Rochlin added.
Over the next year, Cycle for Unity will be hosting rides in Romania, Greece, Scotland, the Negev and other locations across the globe.
For more information and registration for CFU rides, contact www.cycleforunity.org.
By Zachary Schrieber
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