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Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance uses Pavel Friedmann’s “The Butterfly” poem to guide their annual Ride 2 Remember benefit

Every butterfly that is painted regains a voice for a lost child

Butterflies and bikers, riding to remember.
Butterflies and bikers, riding to remember.

On Thursday September 8, members of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance arrived in San Diego from all over the country to take part in their annual Ride 2 Remember, a three-day event focused on Holocaust education and remembrance, which raises money for a charity of their choosing. The JMA is an umbrella organization made up of numerous, wonderfully named smaller clubs: The 13th Tribe, Lost Tribe, Chai Riders, Shalom & Chrome, Sons of Abraham, Mazeltuff, and Mountain Menschen, among others.

Cheryl Rattner Price (center) with (L to R) survivors Mike Wallenfels, Ben Midler, and Manya Wallenfels, along with Esther Friedman.

This year’s ride — the first in the JMA’s 20-year history to take place west of the Mississippi — is a fundraiser for San Diego’s Butterfly Project, a “grassroots-gone-global program” created in 2006 by Jan Landau and Cheryl Rattner-Price. Inspired by Whitwell, Tennessee’s Paper Clips Project — in which middle school students created a memorial for victims of the Holocaust using paperclips to represent lost lives — and taking its name from a poem from the Terezin concentration camp, Pavel Friedman’s “The Butterfly,” the project works with schools throughout San Diego and around the world to create art projects using individually painted ceramic butterflies, each one of which comes with the biography and image of a Jewish child who was killed by the Nazis. “We tell these family stories and get the kids engaged in a project that lights them up because they’re working with art, working with stories, and involved in a community project,” said co-founder Price.

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Sponsored

Wherever it has gone, The Butterfly Project has always been involved not just with schools and students, but also with survivors of the Holocaust, who come to meet the students and make their own butterflies. Last week’s event was no exception: Price said she expected five or six survivors to attend the numerous events that bookend the ride itself — meals, religious services, and parties. She movingly recalled what it was like when she first started to meet Holocaust survivors for her work, telling me that their Yiddish accents reminded her of her grandparents, and that they were thrilled to hear about the project and get involved. In turn, they have been received with enthusiasm by the children who are engaged in the project: “You should see how beautiful it is; [the students] flock to them, they want to take pictures with them.”

The JMA gets ready to ride.

Price told me that the project is about “hope, not just the pain of this history,” and sees every butterfly that is painted as regaining a voice for a lost child. She is drawn to the butterfly as an image because “a butterfly is fragile but it’s miraculously strong. It journeys and migrates across the planet.” She sees it as an emblem of freedom and beauty.

On Friday, the approximately 65 bikers, each carrying a butterfly and photo, began at the San Diego Jewish Academy, meeting with students and community members before beginning their two hour ride around San Diego, down from North County, over the Coronado bridge, and returning to Congregation Beth El in La Jolla for a Survivors’ Lunch.

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Butterflies and bikers, riding to remember.
Butterflies and bikers, riding to remember.

On Thursday September 8, members of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance arrived in San Diego from all over the country to take part in their annual Ride 2 Remember, a three-day event focused on Holocaust education and remembrance, which raises money for a charity of their choosing. The JMA is an umbrella organization made up of numerous, wonderfully named smaller clubs: The 13th Tribe, Lost Tribe, Chai Riders, Shalom & Chrome, Sons of Abraham, Mazeltuff, and Mountain Menschen, among others.

Cheryl Rattner Price (center) with (L to R) survivors Mike Wallenfels, Ben Midler, and Manya Wallenfels, along with Esther Friedman.

This year’s ride — the first in the JMA’s 20-year history to take place west of the Mississippi — is a fundraiser for San Diego’s Butterfly Project, a “grassroots-gone-global program” created in 2006 by Jan Landau and Cheryl Rattner-Price. Inspired by Whitwell, Tennessee’s Paper Clips Project — in which middle school students created a memorial for victims of the Holocaust using paperclips to represent lost lives — and taking its name from a poem from the Terezin concentration camp, Pavel Friedman’s “The Butterfly,” the project works with schools throughout San Diego and around the world to create art projects using individually painted ceramic butterflies, each one of which comes with the biography and image of a Jewish child who was killed by the Nazis. “We tell these family stories and get the kids engaged in a project that lights them up because they’re working with art, working with stories, and involved in a community project,” said co-founder Price.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Wherever it has gone, The Butterfly Project has always been involved not just with schools and students, but also with survivors of the Holocaust, who come to meet the students and make their own butterflies. Last week’s event was no exception: Price said she expected five or six survivors to attend the numerous events that bookend the ride itself — meals, religious services, and parties. She movingly recalled what it was like when she first started to meet Holocaust survivors for her work, telling me that their Yiddish accents reminded her of her grandparents, and that they were thrilled to hear about the project and get involved. In turn, they have been received with enthusiasm by the children who are engaged in the project: “You should see how beautiful it is; [the students] flock to them, they want to take pictures with them.”

The JMA gets ready to ride.

Price told me that the project is about “hope, not just the pain of this history,” and sees every butterfly that is painted as regaining a voice for a lost child. She is drawn to the butterfly as an image because “a butterfly is fragile but it’s miraculously strong. It journeys and migrates across the planet.” She sees it as an emblem of freedom and beauty.

On Friday, the approximately 65 bikers, each carrying a butterfly and photo, began at the San Diego Jewish Academy, meeting with students and community members before beginning their two hour ride around San Diego, down from North County, over the Coronado bridge, and returning to Congregation Beth El in La Jolla for a Survivors’ Lunch.

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