On Sunday, a throng of bikers will pedal to the starting line at the Annual SINAI bike-a-thon in Paramus. Among them will be Teaneck resident Dov Nahari. In fact, reports Sam Fishman, consulting managing director of SINAI Schools, Nahari is as reliable as the mailman.
Every day for the past several weeks, Nahari has biked over to SINAI’s Teaneck Road office to deliver a handful of checks, said Fishman, who has dubbed Nahari the Energizer Bunny. “He brings such fun to it and his excitement lights up the office. In this economy, when everyone is struggling and we’ve been suffering, it’s nice to have that kind of lift.”
Nahari has raised a total of close to $9,000 in the past three years since the race was launched. But he’s not finished collecting yet for this year’s race, whose starting point is at Yeshivat Noam. “When people see me biking around, they ask if I’m doing the bike-a-thon and when I say yes, they say, ‘Put me down for $25,’ “ Nahari says with a grin.
|Dov Nahari prepares for the SINAI bike-a-thon. Deena Yellin-Fuksbrumer|
The event raises money for SINAI Schools, which provides a yeshiva day-school education for children and teens with a range of learning, developmental, and other special needs. SINAI is composed of two elementary schools, three high schools, and two transitional adult residences.
Bike-a-thon check-in starts at 8 a.m. and goes until 10:30 a.m., depending on the route. Riders can choose a route ranging from 10 miles to 50 miles, and a kids’ bike route goes around the parking lot. Prizes are given to those who collect upward of $750 in donations. Walk-ins are invited but riders can also sign up online at http://www.sinaischools.org/bikeathon/index.php
Nahari says he believes strongly in SINAI’s concept, although he is not Orthodox. “They are our children,” he says. “I grew up Orthodox and I’m not anymore but I have respect for [Orthodox Judaism].” He knows of two people in his immediate neighborhood – a child and an adult – who are benefiting from Sinai’s programs. The adult is severely impaired and the youngster has undergone such progress that he’s been mainstreamed into regular classes. But Nahari insists his primary impetus for raising funds for Sinai is not about his personal relationships.
“I’m a hidden child of The Holocaust,” he says, adding that he escaped from the Ukraine with a group of children when he was 6 years old and immigrated to Israel in 1943. “So for me to help these children is a very special zchut [honor] for me.” Nahari, who taught Hebrew in Teaneck High School and served as education director of the Jewish Center of Teaneck, says he believes in accessible education for all, adding, “I was in education all my life. We can’t forget about special needs children.”
Nahari grew up in Nahariya. He settled in America when he was 22 and attended City College of New York. His wife Sara is a professor at Queens and Touro colleges. She doesn’t bike, but prefers to exercise at Feminine Fitness, he quips.
Nahari’s devotion to SINAI comes as no surprise to his neighbors. Ellen Friedman, who lives on Nahari’s block, says Nahari was always especially kind to her sons when they were growing up. “On the toughest day, a child’s smile can melt Dov’s heart,” she said. “He feels the pain of a child so deeply that he can hardly speak without crying when any child he knows is troubled or sick. Dov will leap to help a child in need. It is because of this he puts his pedals to the metal to ride to raise funds for Sinai schools. He knows his physical effort will ensure the children of Sinai get the Jewish education they need.”
The 72-year-old Nahari is an avid athlete with a regimen that puts his younger counterparts to shame. Until recently he biked 30 miles a day and swam an hour’s worth of laps daily at the Teaneck Swim Club, where he’s a fixture in the summer months. Now, because of health problems, he’s cut down to 10 miles a day on his bike. At Teaneck’s Votee Park, it’s hard to miss Nahari pedaling furiously on his bicycle, waving his hand at friends and acquaintances. He gives fair warning to those ahead on the trail by blasting classical music from a radio attached to his handlebars.
Three years ago, Nahari biked 30 miles in the SINAI bike-a-thon. Last year, he and his wife were in Japan during the event, but when they returned home, all of his supporters from the previous year wanted to donate to the cause, so he collected another $3,000.
This year, his participation is somewhat of a miracle. Several months ago, he underwent major surgery after doctors discovered a malignant mass. The recovery was difficult, but made possible largely because Nahari was in tip-top physical condition.
Now, he’s back to biking. And back to collecting for his favorite cause. “My daughter the big time lawyer told me, ‘Abba, if you are well enough this year to do this bike-a-thon, I’m going to write a big check,’ “ he says, the tears welling up in his eyes. “It gives me oneg [joy] to do this for Sinai. They are special children. They are my children.”
Meanwhile, Fishman beams as he describes the handiwork of one of SINAI’s biggest fans. “This comes at a time when we are grappling with scholarships. The demand is so huge. And he comes every day to our office with his special delivery and clearly it’s a labor of love.” Fishman says that he and the other SINAI employees in the office try to thank Nahari a million times for his efforts and his joy.
“We always tell him thank you, but then he says, “No, thank you for letting me help this wonderful cause.”