Chai life on a Harley


Pictured above: Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance members from riding clubs across the country stop in Needles, CA, with the Colorado River in the background. From left, Ilan (Eli) Navon (NY), Ilan Nahum (NY), Doug Faigel (AZ), Nico Berlin (Charleston), Jeff Chernoff (FL), Nevin Heitner (AZ), Michael Feldman (MI), Jodii Zimmerman (AZ), Max Heeres (AZ), Harvey Wershbale (AZ), Sheldon Smaye (Canada), Peter Anderson (AZ), Stuart Kaufman (Charleston) and Richard Moses (FL).

Did you know that there are Jewish motorcycle riding clubs all over the world – and that we have one here in Arizona? It’s true! Max Heeres is the founder of the Lost Tribe of Arizona, for motorcyclists that share a common bond of Judaism and a love to ride.

The Lost Tribe of Arizona is open to Jewish riders and those Jewish by affiliation. “Usually it means a spouse or anyone who would like to ride with us, but they need to know it’s a Jewish group,” explains Max. “My wife is not Jewish, but she is very much for this.”

The Lost Tribe of Arizona is a member of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance which has chapters all over the United States and in Israel, South Africa, England, Australia and Canada.

Lost Tribe of Arizona members in Oatman, AZ, from left, Nevin Heitner, Doug Faigel and Max Heeres.

Max started the riding club about a year ago after being involved with Lost Tribe of Virginia Beach when he worked in Virginia. “We have 31 members, but about half of them are active.,” he says. “We meet for dinner once a month, and then have rides two or three times a month. Sometimes we’ll have a big weekend ride, and sometimes it’s just a day ride.”

The group hosted a “meet and greet” in March, inviting other members of the JMA to come here for a “real tour of Arizona.” They had 18 people on 16 bikes, and Max admits it was a challenge to keep track of everyone in traffic, “We had three radios (communicating), and we managed to keep the group together the whole time.”

The next event that Max is preparing for is the Ride 2 Remember. This JMA-sponsored national event is held in honor of Holocaust victims and survivors. The ride takes place in June and each riding club bids for a chance to host.

“The bid is basically what charity we are raising money for; it’s all about Holocaust education,” says Max. “This year, it’s in Cleveland, OH, and it’s all about the hologram project they are working on.”

The project Max is referring to is The Survivor Memory Project at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood, OH. In partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation, a local Holocaust survivor will participate in a two-day interview. The session will be specially filmed to create a 3D hologram. When a person visits the museum, they will then be able to interact with the hologram, hear the survivor’s voice and listen to their stories.

Max admits the holograms elicit a powerful reaction. “It’s very, very emotional. I grew up in Israel, I grew up with survivors telling their stories, it was very touching. You do this big event, you raise money for something like this, and that’s what you get in return – those emotional moments.”

This year will be Max’s seventh R2R. “We do a ceremonial ride in whatever city we are in,” he says. “We have 200 to 300 motorcyclists riding across the city with police escorts holding up the lights, and all these people are held up in traffic, and they are watching you go by with the Israeli flags and everything – it’s a great show of force. It’s a very proud moment.”

Max looks forward to these rides and says each time he goes he makes new friends who are Jewish motorcyclists. “When you ride with people it creates a bond, you become really good friends,” he says. “Now imagine riding with Jewish people. It’s such a powerful bond, it’s hard to describe, but you become very strong friends very quickly because you have so much in common.”

For more information, visit the riding club’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/LostTribeAZ.

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