As a young girl’s bat mitzvah approaches, she often dreams of the party she will have. DJs, dancing, singing, trampolines, sports complexes and photo booths all typically make the list of potential party venues and activities. Coupled with the fun, of course, is the significance of this life-cycle event: a girl becoming a Jewish woman. This rite of passage is frequently commemorated with a chesed/mitzvah project, selected and taken on by the bat mitzvah girl.
Nesya Bayewitz, a sixth grader at Yeshivat Noam, decided to take this chesed a step further. Foregoing the traditional bat mitzvah party, Nesya will be celebrating her bat mitzvah with 100 friends and family at the Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS) Ride to Fight Hunger on Sunday, June 23.
“I am so happy that I can have fun and do charity at the same time,” remarked Nesya.
The JFCS Ride to Fight Hunger is a ride and hike event through the Hudson Valley. There is a hike option, and four ride options: three mile, for the training wheels set; 10 mile, which Nesya and her friends will be doing; 25 mile; and 50 mile. The start times are staggered throughout the morning so that all participants complete their hike or ride at approximately the same time.
All routes will start and finish at Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey. Throughout the day, at the synagogue, food and beverages will be served and there will be a “family fun area” with music and games, making it a festive occasion for all.
“The ride really is a party; it is fun and exercise and chesed all in one,” said Tirza Bayewitz, Nesya’s mother. “There is such an upbeat feeling at the end because everyone had fun while doing a great thing.”
She continued, “This event could not be a more perfect expression of the kind of kid [Nesya] is: loves to have fun with her friends outdoors, enjoys the independence of riding a bike and is compassionate about the needs of others. We have gotten to know JFCS in the process and are amazed at the support they provide for members of our community. We are so proud of Nesya for choosing to celebrate her bat mitzvah with JFCS.”
Nesya has always loved bike riding, and has been participating in this ride since the age of 8. Through her involvement with JFCS programs, she learned more about food scarcity in Northern New Jersey and has become increasingly grateful that she is fortunate to have food to eat at every meal.
“For my bat mitzvah, I wanted to share this experience with my friends so they can also learn about how to help people who don’t have enough food or aren’t able to leave their house to get groceries. I hope they will love the ride as much as I do and come back with their families in the future,” commented Nesya.
“Our mission has always been to strengthen and enhance the well-being of all who call upon us,” Susan Greenbaum, chief executive officer of JFCS, said. “This amazing event provides an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate our community’s beauty: its people, its scenic riches and our shared compassion for the human spirit.”
“As a family we have always enjoyed the annual JFCS bike rides, and it’s been wonderful learning more about the organization over the past few months. JFCS is run by an outstanding team, led by dedicated and talented lay leaders, and we’ve been so impressed by their passion for the work they do and the commitment they have to the broader community. We hope this bat mitzvah celebration will not only be meaningful for Nesya and her friends, but it will help spread greater awareness about JFCS and the services they provide. Hopefully we’ll continue to see a new wave of young bikers and volunteers in years to come,” said Nesya’s dad, Ariel.
Funds raised will benefit the JFCS Meals-on-Wheels program, delivering 48,000+ meals to homebound seniors and disabled individuals in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties. Funds also support the JFCS Food Pantries that serve nearly 200 families though the Teaneck and Fair Lawn locations.
The family’s goal is to raise $18,000 this year. Registration, fundraising goals and course information is available on the official event website at http://www.ridetofighthunger.com/. For those who would like to join Nesya’s team, it is called Team Nesya’s Bat Mitzvah. You can donate without participating, of course, but Nesya said, “I want them to ride with me.” According to Nesya, being there is what makes it all so special.
By Jill Kirsch