JDC On Wheels to Hungary and Romania, June 2019
This past June, we at Kenes Tours & Gil Travel had the honor of taking part in planning, operating and supporting The JDC on Wheels cycling mission to Hungary and Romania. It was a unique trip, where participants united in JDC jerseys and biking gear had the opportunity to cycle daily on tracks varying in difficulty to see and experience the beautiful sites of Hungary and Romania.
This was seamlessly woven into a rich itinerary specially designed to learn about JDC’s work to support the most vulnerable members of the Jewish community. A key component of the mission was its many encounters and visits including to old age homes and an international Jewish camp in Szarvas, hearing from survivors and learning about personal stories in each town and seeing the local synagogue of each city or town to understand its history and activity today.
A mission of this nature which combines touring with cycling requires exceptional organization, logistics and team communication. The participant’s experience really says it all and ultimately defines a successful mission.
Here’s a taste of what our client had to say about the program and the level of service we were able to provide:
“The reception, biking bags and bike set up was top notch. It was a really strong way to start and set the tone for a professional biking mission”
At the welcome dinner with members of the Jewish community of Budapest - “It really worked well to have each one stand up in front and tell a bit about herself in a 3-5 min presentation and then to have time for more personal conversation at the tables. It was also a nice touch to have Zsuzsa with us, to continue speaking about the JCC and engage the group. Lovely and meaningful evening!”
At the Szarvas camp - “It was great to arrive to lunch and see the dining room so full of energy, with singing and dancing from the moment we arrived. It's also nice to have visitors spread out amongst the tables to have lunch with the Szarvas madrichim and campers.”
“Beautiful ride, best one so far. Lots of beautiful views, varied terrain. Great ending location at Hunter's Lodge. Helpful to have showers and rooms to get dressed; this was a nice touch. Food and coffee was wonderful.”
At the holocaust memorial in Bucharest – “Very interesting and the Rabbi was lovely and spoke well. We spent just the right amount of time here, including the memorial ceremony.”
At the farewell dinner - “Beautiful evening, great community atmosphere and fun vibe. 4th of July decorations, food & cake were wonderful. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and it was lovely to be seated together with members of the community so we could speak with them a bit. Traditional Romanian dance and music performances were wonderful and our mission pax were impressed at how friendly and outgoing the local community was. Overall, a super successful and memorable evening.”
Offering members and donors the opportunity to see a country by cycling is truly special. It creates an opportunity for bonding, creating memories and having fun. But this experience is enhanced by many folds through the enriching programming that really provides meaning for dollars donated and a try perspective on the Jewish cause worldwide.
Programming as a vehicle to enhance the Federation’s goals:
As is always the case at Kenes Tours & Gil Travel, special attention was dedicated to choosing optimal programming designed to engage, entice, and connect participants with one another and with the local communities they’re serving. Not only did the program aim to educate about issues of contemporary importance facing both the local and global Jewish communities, but also to create meaningful and memorable experiences that unite people across generational divides and which strengthen the commitment of future generations to helping world Jewry, both old and young, and as active members of their community back home.
Highlighted activities included:
- A kickoff cycling ride Szentendre with time to tour the quaint village
- A surprise boat ride to Budapest
- Hungary Today: A Socio-Political and Economic Overview with Gabor Gyori, Senior Political Analyst at Policy Solutions, a Hungarian think tank
- Tour of Jewish Budapest
- Hearing survivors tell their story in an intimate café setting
- Visiting JCC’s, Old Age homes and Jewish summer camps
- Community dinner and 4th of July celebration
- A community-wide Kabbalat Shabbat in Bucharest’s Choral synagogue
Throughout the itinerary, special focus was given to weaving in Jewish and educational programming to enhance the experience. While there, mission participants, staff and leadership had an incredible opportunity to visit a selection of JDC-supported initiatives and endeavors, to see firsthand what they’re able to give to children and elderly living in these communities.
Why was this mission considered to be a success?
One of the challenges of planning a cycling mission, in addition to the obvious logistical challenges, is ensuring everyone can participate in and enjoy the activities in their own unique way. Harder tracks and easier ones made it possible for everyone to enjoy at their pace.
Planning a successful mission is always a team effort. Kenes Tours & Gil Travel strive to ensure maximum satisfaction through strong and professional collaboration with our Jewish organization partners. Working together, we develop missions that contain high-impact content, provide smooth and seamless logistics, present real-time solutions to challenges, all the while keeping our partners’ organizational goals front and center.