Posted by Bernice Behar

Bernice Behar and her husband cycling in the Israel Ride.

A few years ago, I made a renewed commitment to personal fitness. As part of that commitment, I also rediscovered my love of cycling as a way of seeing new places and connecting to nature. My husband, Sam, got on board, and we started exploring many places by bicycle. We're not hard-core cyclists, but our vacations often include some time for touring on two wheels.

The Ride for Food

This passion for cycling dovetailed beautifully with a new fundraising opportunity for Family Table. In 2014, we were approached by Three Squares New England (TSNE), a non-profit dedicated to helping food pantries in our area raise money to fight hunger. TSNE wanted to know if we were interested in gathering a team to participate in their signature event, the Ride for Food. We said "yes," and it's been an outstanding partnership ever since!

Now, every fall, Family Table fields a team of enthusiastic cyclists for the Ride for Food with each person committing to ride one of the designated routes (10, 25, or 50 miles) and to raise money for Family Table. This past fall, our team of 28 people raised more than $38,000. Importantly, these dollars went directly to Family Table and will help us provide food for hungry families throughout the coming year.

The Israel Ride

No sooner had last year's Ride for Food ended than Sam and I got back on our bikes and starting training for another cycling fundraiser – the Israel Ride. This annual cycling adventure supports two exceptional organizations: The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Hazon. The Arava Institute brings together Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian, and international students to prepare "future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region's environmental challenges." Hazon is a nonprofit that "works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and healthier and more sustainable world for all" through retreats and educational programming.

In late October, we spent a week with more than 200 like-minded people from all over the U.S., Canada, and Australia, biking from Jerusalem to Eilat and the Dead Sea. Along the way, we learned about the important work conducted by Arava and Hazon and had the chance to experience Israel in a new way. It was, by turns, exhilarating, exhausting, fun, and spiritually meaningful for both of us.

What I have discovered is that being on a bike for long stretches gives me the chance to explore new places, challenge myself physically, and reflect on what really matters in life. Sometimes, I'm mentally absorbed in the challenge of a steep hill, or I am simply appreciating the scenery around me, but as I turn those pedals, my mind inevitably returns to the causes that I hold close to my heart. I am always grateful to be able to tack on another mile as a small way of making a difference in this world.

Bernice Behar is the Director of Family Table, the largest kosher food pantry serving Greater Boston, the North Shore, and the South Area. She joined JF&CS in 2010, having spent many years working in the financial industry as a chartered financial analyst and investment manager. Bernice brings to Family Table a passion for helping people access nutritious food and a dedication to working in the Jewish community. She sits on the Board of Directors of Three Squares New England, a non-profit dedicated to alleviating food insecurity in Massachusetts. Bernice is active in leadership at her synagogue and holds a BA from the University of California Berkeley.