Hazon 2006 NY Ride: The Shabbaton

The Hazon rides are not just about cycling. Our experience started when we arrived at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for the Shabbaton (weekend retreat) on the Friday afternoon. My entire family came down for this part of the event, and once Hannah and I started riding on Sunday morning, my wife was to take the twins into Manhattan for a couple of days of fun through to when they would meet us at the end of the ride. The retreat center is reasonably rustic, but certainly very pleasant. The group was large enough that we did not fit in the dining room to eat, so there was a large tent outside where all the food was served.

Once we checked in and found our rooms, we had the opportunity to participate in various programs. Some of the activities that afternoon included discussing the various environmental programs at Isabella Freedman, Yoga, swimming, discussions on conflict resolution, local organic food, and so on. The kids worked on posters which would be used to cheer the riders.

That evening there were a variety of options for welcoming in Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath arrives at sundown on Friday), including prayer services from the very traditional to the completely alternative. I opted for the "cocktails by the pool" alternative, where I got to meet a remarkable woman who had founded Footsteps, an organization that addresses the overwhelming needs of people from the ultra-orthodox and Chasidic communities who choose to enter mainstream America. This was one of many great encounters I had over the weekend. Jumping forward, another such encounter was with a doctor who works at Johnson & Johnson in their pharmaceutical research group who was familiar with Phase Forward (the company I co-founded almost 10 years ago). Yet another encounter was meeting someone who works as part of the NYC civilian police investigation board (who take over after Internal Affairs leave).

Although most participants in the program and ride were Jews, some were not. There were two Palestinians who were alumni of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel (a Hazon grantee), where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians work on regional environmental issues together. At least one or two other non-Jewish people had come with their friends because they were attracted to the environmental aspects, or wanted to participate in a great cycling experience.

Later on Friday evening, Anna Stevenson (the Hazon staff ride coordinator) delivered a wonderful keynote lecture on how vision can be translated into reality (remember, Hazon means vision).

On Saturday there were many many different programs. I attended a panel on the state and future of food, where the panelists included a chasidic organic maple syrup farmer from Vermont and the President of the American Jewish World Service. Discussion ranged from the practicality of local organic farming in an industrial world, to the notion of Fiji brand water being shipped all the way round the world because somehow we like it better than the local water (According to Wikipedia, it has more arsenic in it than Cleveland municipal water).

Suddenly, after sundown and the traditional celebration of Havdallah, the end of Shabbat, the mood changed, and we started to prepare for a bike ride. We had safety briefings, route briefings and bike prep. We went to bed nervous, and I for one slept fitfully.

Waking up early Sunday morning, and fuelling up (big cooked breakfast), was great. The weather was miserable, but people were happy, excited, edgy, ready to go. Dorit and Asher and Rina saw us ride off, and then went off to Manhattan as planned. Hannah and I rode off into the rain at the back of the line.

I have covered the story of the ride (day 1 and day 2) separately. In a later posting I will talk about the community gatherings at the end of day 1, and at the end of the ride.

While you can, and if you haven't, please go ahead and sponsor Hannah or me for the Hazon 2006 New York Bike ride.


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