Leather-clad bikers burn up the stereotypes in trans-America odyssey
Jewish voyages of self-discovery are not uncommon, but few of them feature leather jackets and high-performance motorbikes.
Indeed, so unusual is the “Ride to Remember” — in which seven riders and a female rabbi traversed the North American continent on two wheels — that it became the subject of a Sky Atlantic documentary series.
With female Liberal rabbi Anna Gerard riding pillion, an assortment of Orthodox and secular bikers set off across America to raise money for Holocaust education courses.
The ride inspired documentary maker David Notman to follow their journey after meeting members of north London bike gang “Yids on Bikes” and hearing about their trip.
He commented: “Rightly or wrongly, everyone I tell about this series is surprised that Jewish bikers exist at all.”
Gary King, from Watford, who rode on the trip, was impressed by the profile his American counterparts enjoy.
“There is an Israel parade in New York where they shut down the whole of Fifth Avenue for the riders. The Star of David is everywhere. It is amazing — you wouldn’t see that here. I’m proud to tell people I’m a Jewish biker now.”
The group made pit stops along the way, meeting people from a wide range of backgrounds, from Jewish and non-Jewish bikers to small-town residents.
Rabbi Gerard explained that the group had originally wanted a bike-riding rabbi to join them. “I don’t ride a bike, but I agreed to go on the back of one. It felt like a unique experience and opportunity to explore all aspects of Jewish culture across America,” she said.
She spent some time with a strictly Orthodox couple living in the Bible belt area of the south. “The couple were fascinated with me as a Jewish female rabbi on the back of the bike, particularly the woman bit, because we come from different worlds.”
However, Mr King felt less than comfortable in the south: “I felt very anxious there; it felt dangerous to tell people we were Jews on bikes.”
Rabbi Gerard acknowledged there had been tensions between the religious and secular members. She said: “The bikers didn’t want to change their religious viewpoints and I’m not in the business of pushing increased levels of religion.”
However, Mr Notman believes that those watching the series will have their perceptions changed. “This group of Jewish bikers challenge stereotypes every step of the way.”