The Shmooze

Hasidic Biker Gang Spreads the Word on Wheels

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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It’s time to let go of the incorrect assumption that all ultra-Orthodox Jews try to turn away as much as possible from the outside world. You’d be wrong to think that all of them spend every waking moment at serious study, prayer and work.

It turns out, at least in some cases, that Haredim just want to have fun. In fact, some of them are downright daredevils.

First, there was the recent profile in the New York Post and other outlets of the Rebbe’s Riders, Lubavitcher motorcyclists who do kiruv (religious outreach to fellow Jews) on wheels. “The Riders…say their love of choppers gives them something in common with Jews who might have strayed onto the Highway to Hell,” according to the Post. These guys still wear black — only they’ve traded their kapotes (long coats) for padded leather jackets.

And just yesterday, the New York Times Magazine ran a striking black and white photograph of a 22-year-old Lubavitcher praying with his fiancée at the Ohel, the grave of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The young man, Tommer Weingarten, had his arm in a sling. He explained in the quote accompanying the photo: “And my arm was in a sling, because I fell off my longboard and broke my collarbone. I’m into skateboarding.”

These guys know how to do a balancing act — keeping the mitzvot while not falling down (or at least trying not to) while going very fast on wheels. They’re real holy rollers.

What’s next for these Jews so willing to take risks in the pursuit of fulfilling God’s commandments? Our guess is they’re going to kick it up a notch and try skydiving.


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