Training wheels trained him well
Dallas teen cycling to raise money for Israel
by Deborah Silverthorn
Special to DJW
When Glenn Schachar helped his son, Eric, learn to ride a bike, the furthest thing from his mind was that his "little boy" would ever be traveling to Israel - to ride 314 miles, in six days.
But that's exactly what Eric Schachar will be doing next month as the youngest cyclist on Ride For Israel, a 40-member solidarity mission that hopes to raise funds for, and awareness of, the environmental challenges in Israel.
Schachar, a 2002 graduate of Akiba Academy and a 15-year-old freshman at Yavneh Academy, is excited about having found a way to express his strong interest and love for Israel. "I think the Jewish education my parents have afforded me has helped to develop my connection to Israel. As a kid you wonder 'what difference can I make?' or 'what can I do?' Now, through my passion for bike riding, I can help."
Schachar lives in Sherman. That's a tough trek by four-wheel-drive but, when the weather is clear, Schachar makes that ride home from Yavneh on the two wheels of his Cannondale Road bike. "It takes almost three-and-a-half hours," he said. "I ride up Hillcrest to Campbell, to the service road of Central Expressway and then straight north. It's about 60 miles but I love it. I didn't realize I was training for the opportunity of a lifetime, but it's great."
Schachar bought his bike using birthday gift monies and earnings from two summers as a Camp Rayus counselor. "Eric is a hard-working, energetic young man and an asset to our staff," said Rabbi Binyomin Stolov, the camp's co-founder. "He's incredibly dedicated and he's setting a great example for our kids."
"He rides reeeeally far and it's cool," said camper Avrohom Rich. "You can tell he takes care of his bike because even though it's not new, it's always in perfect shape. Right now I can probably ride for 20 minutes but I'd love to ride like him someday."
Ride in Israel - the full name is Arava Institute Hazon Bike Ride in Israel, Cycling in Solidarity for Peace, Partnership & Environmental Protection - is co-sponsored by The Arava Institute and Hazon. It also is a People-to-People project of the Jewish Agency for Israel, supported by the Jewish National Fund, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life and Young Judaea.
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies located on Kibbutz Ketura, north of Eilat, is a regional center for environmental leadership that offers academic programs, research and public involvement.
Hazon, which means vision, is committed to projects that renew Jewish tradition through idealism, learning and innovation. "The rides use Jewish tradition in an inventive way to raise environmental awareness in the Jewish community, to raise money for Jewish environmental projects, and to deepen people's understanding of Jewish tradition," said Nigel Savage, executive director.
Each rider must guarantee sponsorships totaling a minimum of $3,600, which includes round-trip airfare to Israel from New York, shipping costs for participant's bicycles, meals and accommodations, security and technical assistance and other support services.
In addition, Schachar is trying to raise an additional $700 to pay for his round-trip airfare from Dallas to New York.
So far, he's raised $1,000 for the April 27-May 2 ride. Those who sponsor $50 or more, including Dallas Jewish Week, will have their names printed on the jersey Schachar will wear while riding.
The first ride, from Seattle to Washington, D.C., in 2000, raised $20,000. Subsequent bike rides, held in New York, raised $32,000 in 2001 and $126,000 in 2002.
"It's positive and inspirational," said Savage. "To get people outside and to help them connect with the outdoors and the realities of the world we live in. To have a young rider like Eric, who is so committed and intent on what he believes in, is indeed the spirit of what we hope to accomplish."
Not just a fund raiser, the ride will be a learning opportunity. Each day will have an educational theme and the group will stop at various points to learn about those areas.
And Schachar has a proud family. "It's tough but we're letting him go to fulfill a dream," said his dad. "For Dallas, this country and Jews everywhere to be represented by my son É that's impact and that's my kid."
All donations are tax deductible and can be sent, by March 30, to Eric Schachar, P.O. Box 1110 Howe, Texas, 75459-1110. For more information call (903) 816-3626 or visit the Web sites at www.israelride.org or www.hazon.org.
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, March 13, 2003