Jewish Federation reviving Ride to Provide fundraiser

By EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer

Published: 01-20-2023 9:25 PM

AMHERST — After an eight-year hiatus, a former annual fundraising event by the University of Massachusetts Hillel that helped support local, national and international service projects, will be making its return.

Through a partnership with UMass Hillel, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts will be taking over and expanding the Ride to Provide event, said Nora Gorenstein, CEO of the federation, at the organization’s annual meeting in December. 

“This year we made great strides operationally and within the community and we look forward to working with our local partners on the Ride to Provide and other initiatives that we will be announcing in the coming months,” Gorenstein said in a statement. 

The Ride to Provide, a bike ride fundraiser, was founded in 2007 by Rabbi Saul Perlmutter, the former executive director of UMass Hillel. 

An avid bike rider, Perlmutter would commute to work every day from Florence to Amherst via the rail trail. On his way to work, he thought of the idea for the ride, said Courtney Pupkin, who previously worked with Perlmutter and is now the event manager for the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.

“We were looking for a fundraising event that would be fun and good for the world that would involve people really enjoying themselves,” Perlmutter said. “I love biking myself, so it seemed like a natural thing for me to be doing. All those things came together and we decided to give it a try in the fall.”

Participants in the ride could choose a 9-, 18- or 36-mile ride. In addition to the bike ride, the event grew to include walkers and separate community fairs. 

At the end of the event, participants convened with a celebratory kosher lunch, presentations and children’s activities. 

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Initially, the fundraiser benefited community programming and student-led environmentally friendly projects such as an alternative spring break trip to New Orleans to rebuild homes for survivors of Hurricane Katrina and a community service trip to Gedera, Israel to paint buildings and plant gardens in low-income neighborhoods, interacting with seniors, at-risk teens and young children. Over time, the event helped raise money for multiple causes through a 50/50 split, Pupkin said. 

“The rabbi thought that involving everyone, he decided to make a fundraising share to share some of the proceeds,” she said. “We just wanted the participants so much that we said we'll give you half of the proceeds. It became so big and so wonderful. We had so many organizations and all of the Jewish fraternities and sororities also joined in because they used it as their fundraiser … it was a win-win.”

A unique aspect of the event was the rest stops erected for the event when it happened to fall on or around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Perlmutter said, which celebrates the gathering of the harvest and commemorates the 40 years the Jews spent in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. As part of that celebration, Jewish people build a “sukkah” — a hut or temporary dwelling — in their garden that consists of 2½ walls and a roof made of branches and leaves that families will eat and camp in.  

“Along the bike route, people would erect sukkahs by their home and offer riders a little bit to eat and respite while they were doing their bike ride,” Perlmutter said. “This allowed people to meet each other and mingle. It brought so many people together.”

The event was held for eight years until Perlmutter retired from UMass Hillel. 

With the return of the event, Pupkin said the Ride to Provide will host more than 20 teams from area day schools, synagogues, student groups and other nonprofit organizations and allow them to raise funds benefiting the western Massachusetts region.

The fundraising aspect will continue and grow along with other traditions, including starting and ending at UMass Hillel. 

“It’s fun and festive to be a part of,” Pupkin said. 

The Ride to Provide is scheduled for next fall, with more details to come later in the year, and Pupkin is recruiting committee members to help plan the event. 

For those interested in participating, contact Pupkin at 617-290-7850 or email cpupkin@jewishwesternmass.org.

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