If you want to travel from Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody up to Congregation Ahavas Achim in Newburyport, you could drive up the 25 miles or so up Route 95 and in no time, you’d be marveling at a stately old synagogue just steps from Plum Island.
Or you could take the slow, scenic route, and ride your bike up the coast to Ahavas Achim and back, stopping at different area shuls along the way. That’s what 65 cyclists did on June 23 as part of the Tour de Shuls, an annual fundraiser sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC).
For 12 years, cyclists have embarked on different “tours de shuls” throughout Greater Boston, raising an average of $10,000 each year for Tikvah, a program at Camp Ramah New England that helps create an inclusive and accessible summer camp experience for campers with special needs.
“We used to fundraise with raffles, but someone came up with this idea 12, 13 years ago, and we figured it would be a little more entertaining,” said Morris Diamant, the vice president of the New England FJMC chapter who organized the tour this year.
This is the second year that participants have gone from Ner Tamid to Ahavas Achim (the tour typically follows the same route for two years in a row), stopping at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly and Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester along the way for rest, refreshments, and a quick look around.
Riders left at 7:20 a.m. and returned 18 hours later at 1:30 a.m. to complete the 81-mile round-trip journey between Peabody and Newburyport. However, tour de shuling need not be quite so grueling: abbreviated tours lasting 12, 30, and 52 miles also were offered, and first-time riders were given the option of being accompanied by someone more experienced.
“People who do 80-mile rides usually ride 50-75 miles every week, and a lot of them do a 100-mile ride at least once a month, and some of them are in their 70s,” said Diamant. “I don’t know how they do it – their bikes are better than mine.”
Diamant noted both 80-year-olds and 10-year-olds have participated in past trips, which have included jaunts through the South Shore beginning and ending at Temple Israel of Sharon, and in MetroWest, beginning and ending at Temple Emunah in Lexington.
Individual riders pay a registration fee of $72, and are required to solicit a minimum of $50 in donations; whereas families register for $100 and bring at least $100 in donations. “Virtual riders,” as well as sponsors from local businesses and temple men’s clubs, helped gross approximately $10,000 to benefit Tikvah. Contributions are still being accepted on the Tour de Shuls’ FirstGiving page.
“The ride was great,” said Mark Druy of Arlington. “Being from Arlington, I rarely ride on the North Shore, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to ride along the North Shore coast. I loved being able to visit some very historic shuls along the way.”