Bucks County Jewish Festival Celebrates Community and Medicycles

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Hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of Congregation Beth El in Yardley on Sunday Aug. 9 for the Bucks County Jewish Festival.

Hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of Congregation Beth El in Yardley on Sunday Aug. 9 for the Bucks County Jewish Festival for a celebration of community and the chance to raise much-needed funds for a Jewish charity.
 
While the festival itself went on until 4 p.m., about 300 attendees got an early start in order to welcome the Star of David Bikers back from their morning ride to kick off the day.
 
The 31 participating motorcycle riders and enthusiasts completed their annual Louis Nemtsov Star to Star Memorial Ride in honor of the group’s founder, Louis Nemtsov, who died unexpectedly in 2009. He was passionate about the American Friends of Magen David Adom, which supports MDA in Israel and provides ambulance and emergency medical responders to anyone in need.
 
The event acted as a fundraiser for the AFMDA with the goal of raising $36,000, which would supply one medicycle for the Israeli organization.
 
“It was nice for other synagogues to be involved,” said Mark Melmed, leader of the Bucks County Friends of AFMDA. Many synagogues from Bucks County were at the festival with tables of their own, including Congregation Shir Ami, Tifereth Israel and Ohev Shalom.
 
Melmed, a member of Beth El, said this was a great fundraiser and event to host from a synagogue’s perspective because the AFMDA has a broad appeal. The MDA serves anyone in need, he said, whether they are Israeli or not.
 
AFMDA also had a booth for guests to learn more about its mission and raise awareness about MDA in Israel.
 
Melmed was happy with how the day turned out. “As far as we’re concerned, it was a great event,” he said.
 
Guests were treated to falafel and burgers and hot dogs as well as live entertainment from bands made up of various congregation members from surrounding Bucks County synagogues — even the rabbi of Tifereth Israel, Jeffrey Schnitzer.
 
SHIR KLEZ! performed early in the afternoon, which consisted of about 10 members and volunteers of Congregation Shir Ami, including its cantor, Mark Elson.
 
Elson is also a member of Star of David Bikers but did not participate in the ride that morning. He joked that it was too difficult to get his musical equipment and speakers on his motorcycle.
 
“It was a gorgeous day, and we had a fair turnout,” he said. He was happy that rabbis from the other synagogues showed up and supported the event, which he believes will help organizers build on in the future.
 
The festival appealed to all denominations. Representatives from the Friends of Israel, a Christian ministry based in Deptford County, N.J., also showed up to support the fundraiser.
 
Bill Sutter, past executive director of the organization, has been to Israel 35 times and strongly supports the MDA.
 
He said it was important to “show support for Israel’s ambulance missions and in a broader sense to show support for Israel.”
 
His wife, Annette, said they visited the MDA center in Israel last year to do hospital work. The two live in Holland and came out to the event to show support for the AFMDA as they said it is something important to them.
 
For others, it was a chance to interact with the community and spread the message of mitzvot.
 
“We wanted to give opportunities of mitzvot for people to do for Israel,” said Rabbi Zalman Blecher of the Lubavitch of Yardley.
 
Their booth offered men the opportunity to put on tefillin and women could take home Shabbat candles. They also were offering mezuzot for those who don’t have one.
 
Blecher and his family are moving to Yardley just in time for the High Holidays, so he said this was a great way to meet Jewish people in the area.
 
“It was a wonderful community event,” he said. “The more good deeds we do will bring more protection to Israel. Everything we do has a global effect; we wanted to share that message with Bucks County.”
 
Sharon Schmidt, director of the AFMDA Greater Philadelphia area, said she thought the day went “extremely well.”
 
“We raised money for AFMDA,” she said, explaining why it was a success for her. 
 
Mitch Gerson, a volunteer for Ohev Shalom, said it was a great way to bring everyone together.
 
“It was nice to have the community get together and save lives in Israel,” he said.  
 
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