By Dan Aznoff, Jewish Sound Correspondent
They meet religiously on Sunday mornings to worship the open road and the two-wheeled bond that brought them all together. Members of The Tribe, the region’s club for Jewish motorcycle riders, have met once every month — rain or shine — for almost a decade to share the cultural and mechanical bond that stretches beyond carburetors and kippot.
“There is very little about this group that is religious,” said Jeffrey Kay, who helped establish the local club in 2005. “We get together to ride, but it is my belief that anytime you get Jews together it can be a holy event.”
The Tribe is one of 45 organizations across the country in the Jewish Motorcycle Alliance, many of them with amusing names like the Kippah Kruisers, the Hillel Angels, and the Rebbe Riders.
Kay began riding motorcycles with his father in Virginia and joined a group of Jewish two-wheeled motorists in the Washington, D.C. area also known as The Tribe. He was determined to establish a local version of the club after he moved west.
The 30-plus members of The Tribe include doctors, accountants, college professors, real estate investors, techies, one registered nurse, and an auto mechanic. The motorcycles vary from Harley Davidson touring models and some upscale BMWs to a few Honda Gold Wings and one or two V-Stars from Yamaha.
“These are not inexpensive vehicles we’re driving,” said Kay, a software engineer at Microsoft. “Some of us just ride on the weekends. Others ride their bikes to work when the days are long and the weather is nice.”
Members of The Tribe will celebrate the group’s 10-year anniversary this summer with a picnic with spouses and representatives from the many organizations with which the club has interacted over the years. Those include the Stroum Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service’s Seattle Association for Jewish with Disabilities, for which The Tribe sponsors an annual picnic.
Kay described The Tribe as a casual organization with civic-minded members who enjoy giving their time to help others “when we’re not on the road.” He said members contribute double chai ($36) in dues each year to cover the cost of the club website (www.seattletribe.com), t-shirts, patches and the annual picnic. Founding members of The Tribe each received a leather yarmulke that bears The Tribe’s insignia.
The senior member of the club is Ned Porges, 74, who began riding motorcycles as a freshman in college when he and his roommate paid $45 for joint ownership of a used cycle. He stopped riding, but picked up the sport again after a 25-year hiatus when he accepted a position as a professor at the Seattle branch of Washington State University.
“It helped that the kids were all grown and we were financially settled,” Porges said.
He currently rides a Honda Pacific Coast model that he described as a big scooter.
“It was the same model that my instructor rode. My wife approved because it did not look like a typical motorcycle,” said Porges. “It’s a sweet machine.”
Club members meet in Bellevue at the Starbucks near Factoria on the last Sunday of every month. The group selects one member as the “Ride Rabbi,” who chooses the route and the destination. The rabbi then leads members in the Traveler’s Prayer before merging onto the lanes of I-90.
The destination is often less important than the path, said Porges. Past outings have taken club members to the grave of Jimi Hendrix, over Snoqualmie Pass into the sunshine of Eastern Washington, and along the twisting roads that lead to Mt. Rainier. Members recently traveled south for what was described as a “Ned’s Mystery Tour,” which ended with a guided excursion through a private motorcycle collection in Tacoma.
Kay and Porges agreed that one of the best outings of the past year was their August visit to the Kline Galland home. Residents of the facility were invited outside to sit on motorcycles and watch as members burned rubber in the parking lot.
“Giving back is an important part of what we do and probably the best way we can all demonstrate our commitment as Jews,” said Kay.
Several members of The Tribe have taken part in the Ride to Remember sponsored by the national organization to help raise awareness of the Holocaust. Porges met up with a friend from Portland last year for the journey to California, where they joined the Ride to Remember in Orange County. The procession was escorted by motorcycle officers from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“Taking part in something as large and well-organized as the national Ride to Remember helped bring home why we seek out people of the same faith,” Porges said. “Every rider I’ve met from across the country is as passionate about their religion as they are about their bike. And that’s really saying something.”