Hazon bicycle ride puts the pedal to the shtetl

There’s no shortage of cyclists in the Bay Area, but there are few local events that combine Judaism and environmental activism on two wheels.

“That’s our sweet spot,” said Deborah Newbrun, who stepped down last week as director of Hazon Bay Area, sponsor of the Golden Gate Ride and Retreat. The fifth annual event raised $82,500 for the Jewish nonprofit environmental group over Memorial Day weekend. “If you like riding bikes and if you’re excited to be in a Jewish community, this ride is the perfect combination.”

Morgan Blum on Hazon’s Golden Gate Ride photo/hazon bay area

More than 70 riders from ages 7 to 67 took part in the event, which started on Friday night with a Shabbaton at Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma. The congregated tribe of 116 — including riders, crew and family — engaged in casual rides and Shabbat programming on Saturday, then took off around Sonoma and Marin counties for rides of 40 to 80 miles on Sunday and Monday. The ending point May 26 was across the Golden Gate Bridge at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco.

Hazon hosts cycling events in California, New York and Israel.

Morgan Blum, 34, is a third-generation San Franciscan who led the biggest team, Team Hot Wheels, with 13 cyclists. This was her fourth Hazon ride.

About four years ago, “I fell in love with cycling beyond just being a bike commuter,” Blum said in an interview. A Holocaust educator at S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, she started biking when her office moved from downtown San Francisco to the Western Addition.

“It was going to take me 20 minutes to get to work by bike or 45 minutes by bus,” Blum said, adding that she likes having the time every day “to unwind and unplug from technology.”

The Golden Gate Ride routes included rest areas that were stocked with food and drinks, and a “sag wagon” if participants needed a lift or had a flat tire.

One Oakland couple saw the ride as a training run for the Hazon Israel Ride, a five-day ride of 150 to 350 miles across the Holy Land in November. “The Golden Gate Ride was fabulous,” said Joel Biatch, 58, who commutes by bike in Oakland. “It was a great group of people of all ages from the community.”

Biatch and his wife, Shosh Blachman, plan to ride 300 miles in the Israel event, and they cycled more than 100 miles in the Golden Gate Ride. “Long-distance riding is something that I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years,” Biatch said. “Now that the kids are no longer at home, I can do more of this fun stuff.”

While the training rides can be strenuous, Blum said, fundraising is the biggest challenge, as most participants must secure at least $1,000 in pledges before the ride. Blum ended up raising $2,287 from family and friends, ranking No. 4 behind Sue Reinhold of Berkeley ($8,918), Michele Ban of Foster City ($6,685) and Daniella Hirschfeld of Berkeley ($3,464).

The Golden Gate Ride is now a tradition for Blum, who is already looking forward to next year. “I like the community and I really enjoy volunteering with the organization,” she said.

The 2015 Golden Gate Ride and Retreat is scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend, May 7-10.