FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A newly formed minyan in this South Florida community is looking for a rabbi. Applicants must be enthusiastic about working outside a traditional synagogue setting — way outside. On the open road.
The King David Bikers, a motorcycle minyan formed just six weeks ago, has already attracted more than a dozen members who share the group’s interests, as spelled out by president Jeff Mustard: “the passion to ride and the bond of our faith.”
Mustard is leading the search for a spiritual leader for the King David Bikers. “I’m looking for a rabbi to impart a certain Jewish fabric to the group,” he said. “Lessons from the Torah, Jewish enrichment, Jewish education.” The only requirement is that the rabbi ride a motorcycle, a quality not readily found among Jewish clergy.
Rabbi Yaakov Nerenberg of the South Florida Association of Rabbis offered to help Mustard in his search for a Harley-loving spiritual leader. But he told the Forward that not all rabbis are born to be wild. “I am having difficulty finding a rabbi who can fit their needs,” Nerenberg said. Despite that challenge, Nerenberg remains optimistic and continues to search because to him it “sounds like they are on the right path.”
Mustard said that interest in the King David Bikers took off almost immediately after he launched a Web site ( www.KingDavidBik-ers.com ) heralding the group’s formation in February. “A new congregation is rolling into South Florida and it has less to do with whether you are a Conservative, Reform or Orthodox Jew than it does with whether or not you ride a motorcycle,” the home page announces. “If you are Jewish and you ride a motorcycle, finally there’s an organization for you.”
Mustard expects membership to reach two dozen by next week. He said the positive response has been gratifying. “It says to me that what I was feeling, other people were feeling, and there was clearly a pent-up demand for it. It’s like creating a product that really works and people are buying it,” he told the Forward while eating pizza at a Fort Lauderdale outdoor cafe a few feet from where he had parked his gleaming 1600cc Yamaha Road Star Silverado.
Currently, the riders meet every Sunday at the Rascal House — a venerable delicatessen that Mustard has deemed the “big temple of delis” — for breakfast, schmoozing and riding afterward. Mustard, an advertising executive during the workweek, characterizes the members as mostly professionals and businessmen, with a few female and non-Jewish riders diversifying the pack.
There are other Jewish biker clubs in the country, including the Chai Riders and the Star of Davidson in New Jersey and the Sabres in Atlanta. But according to Mustard, the King David Bikers are the first in Florida and the first to seek a rabbinical leader. He hopes to start other chapters around the country. “I think this could be a national organization in other major markets,” Mustard declared while fielding cell phone calls from rabbis and interested bikers.
The King David Bikers have plans to attach mezuzas to members’ bikes, along with saying a short blessing over the kosher hogs, a custom adopted by other Jewish motorcycle communities.
The group has also planned several socially conscious events, including attending a lecture on the Holocaust and a commemorative ride to Miami Beach’s Holocaust Memorial on April 18, the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day. Charity will be another priority — Mustard described plans for a dreidel drive during Chanukah to collect toys for needy children.
Mustard envisions the King David Bikers as more than just weekend Harley hobbyists. “I see this organization as being part motorcycle club, part social club, part chamber of commerce,” said Mustard. “I have a feeling that strong relationships, both personal and business, will evolve from this.”