Board of Deputies President on Capital to Coast Bike Ride

9 July 2013

Last week I joined the annual bicycle ride from London to Brighton arranged by Norwood with the Down’s Syndrome Association and L.A. Fitness.

Bike rides are now competing with dinners as a way of raising money for charity, and while not as lucrative are certainly healthier and a lot more fun. This ride was not exactly a relaxed Sunday afternoon outing – sixty three miles, just over one hundred kilometres through the hills of the North and South Downs culminating in a sharp climb up Devil’s Dyke before a final dash to the sea.

But though a challenging ride, it is also an extremely pleasant one, passing through some of the loveliest scenery in the South East of England. It was characterised by a camaraderie, and absence of competitiveness, which added to the pleasure.

Most important, however, is the charity which raises money for some of the most vulnerable, and therefore deserving, people in our community. The Board has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with Norwood as we seek to with all charities working in the community.

We co- convened a conference with them last year regarding Special Educational Needs for teachers. Next week, we will co-host with Mitzvah day a conference involving Jewish Care, Jami, the Judith Trust, JVN ,Kisharon and Langdon.

All this provides resource which is needed now more than ever before, and it makes one proud of our community, that it looks after its vulnerable people so well.

It is about more than that however. In our tradition one who gives himself but does not wish others to give is said to care for himself but not for others, because charity benefits the donor even more than the recipient. One sees this clearly with charities in the Jewish community. Apart from the work they are doing for the beneficiaries, they have a great effect on their own workers. A ride such as this brings together literally hundreds of volunteers; not only cyclists but also helpers and marshals doing unglamorous work, but making sure that the event actually happens – and happens to plan.

People sometimes complain about our community, but in fact it is full of unsung heroes; selfless people who work for the good of the community and for the welfare of others, without expecting a reward or even praise.

Around Norwood there is whole community of not just the volunteers, but also the carers and finally the clients themselves; some of them residents of the village in Berkshire who remind us of the purpose of what we are doing.

But though Norwood is an excellent example of volunteering in the community, it is by no means the only one. Mitzvah Day makes its impact through volunteers as does JVN. CST draws on three thousand volunteers during the course of the year. It is the Board, however, which can claim the greatest volunteering reach of all , bringing in not only our two hundred and eighty deputies -some of them working tirelessly for the community, and all of them unpaid – but all the people they reach out to in their synagogues, or other associations. One Rabbi described his work with volunteers as his best form of therapy. I find being among them, whether Deputies or outside the Board, as the most rewarding part of the job.