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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The great logo.

My Temple sent me off with this great shirt.

Bike and snow

Where am I going?! And Why?

I will admit that I, like many "Northerners", hardly know the South, even though my aunt and family lived in Durham, North Carolina and I had student rabbinic pulpits in Owensboro, Kentucky and New Iberia, Louisiana. For many a Northerner, Birmingham, England seems more hospitable than Birmingham, Alabama.  (Birmingham, Michigan is another matter entirely.)  The foods, the music, the understanding of a shared history all differ.  The language.  The relations between blacks and whites.  The relations with Jews.  The South can seem scary.

To be honest, I am more concerned about meeting snarling dogs than dangerous people on my bike.  Surely, dislike and distrust exist.  I heard them in the concerns expressed to me in recent days.  They too demonstrate distrust and fear.  But I do believe that people are genuinely good, and, more importantly, nice.  I expect to be offered more kindnesses (water, a meal, or a place to sleep) than cruelties.  Of course, people sometimes live up to their stereotypes, but that is the price for extending oneself into the world at anytime and in any place.  The experience, the journey, the ride is everything.  Learning new truths, touching other souls, experiencing God's presence is all we may hope for each and every day.

[Life is short.  100 years more or (usually) less.  The afterlife is just that: after life.  What it is, or if it is, are meaningless questions.   How to achieve it, if it exists, is easy.  Die.  How to achieve it, if it includes Judgment is also easy.  Act well.  If in the end a particular faith or set of beliefs is required for entry, I'd be surprised, disappointed and maybe just not interested. The experience, the journey, the ride is everything.  Learning new truths, touching other souls, experiencing God's presence is all we may hope for each and every day.]

What I am looking for in the next few months and what has been given me as a great gift is this everyday opportunity muscled up.  I can not help meeting the new everyday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January begins and preparations move into high gear. 

But wait, allow me to step back and introduce myself and this blog.  I am Bob Levy the reform rabbi in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I am fortunate to enjoy a sabbatical for the next six months.  My plan is to cycle, that is on a bicycle, from Florida through Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and back again to Mississippi visiting different Jewish congregations each Shabbat.  In between these visits I will tour the ways and by-ways in self-supported touring.

I am working with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (  Check out their site.  They do the deed, supporting what was once the center of American Jewish life.  With their generous help, together we mapped out a route and made connections with congregations willing to host a visiting rabbi in need of a well cooked meal and a warm shower. 

Preparations also included readying a bike with the help of the folks at Two Wheel Tango in Ann Arbor.  I'll be shipping down to Florida, to my mom's, a tricked out Gunner touring bike, my transport and pretty much my home for three months.  I've got maps and panniers and lights and cooking and sleeping gear.  Everything light and small.

Come February, I'll be ready.  I hope.