The late Kenny Schwartz was a long-time leader of the local Jewish community and passionate about Boys Town Jerusalem (BTJ) and bike riding.
Before losing his battle to pulmonary and cardiovascular disease in August, 2014, Schwartz, who resided in Hollywood at the time of his death, was the driving force for a charity bike ride for BTJ, one of Israel’s premier institutions for educating the country’s next generation of leaders whose mission is to help almost 900 youth-at-risk.
This bike ride, the Kenny Schwartz Bike Ride for Boys Town Jerusalem, recently took place in South Florida and Jerusalem to honor his memory and raise funds for almost 900 youth-at-risk at BTJ. Locally, 51 riders, which was much more than event organizers expected, commenced and concluded their rides at Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus in North Miami Beach. Different bike routes the riders took included five, 10, and 20-mile ones.
“It was wonderful the way our community came together to honor Kenny and support BTJ,” said Gary Arnowitz, executive director of Boys Town Jerusalem Foundation of America, Southeast Region. “It was amazing to watch our 51 riders take off. We had riders on board from six to 88 years young. When Kenny and I started planning this ride our goals were to host a new and fun event which would increase the visibility of BTJ in our community and raise funds from new givers.”
Arnowitz noted that through crowd funding, the organization has so far raised, at press time, $33,604 from 291 gifts, the vast majority of whom are new donors to the school.
“As David Schwartz [Kenny’s son] told me [on the day of the bike ride] Kenny was definitely looking down on you,” Arnowitz added. “I know he was beaming from cheek to cheek.”
Alex Halberstein, chairman of BTJ Foundation of America, Southeast Region, said the turnout out was “wonderful” and “very good” for the institution. The bike ride included participation from the Schwartz family, including Kenny’s widow Maxine, son David, daughter Elizabeth Schwartz, his daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
“It was very emotional,” David said of the turnout. “My father growing up was such a big bike rider/community Jewish organizer. I know he would’ve loved it.”
Elizabeth, who resides in Miami, said “It’s such a great tribute to my dad’s memory that so many people came together for a cause he loved and to do an activity that he really loved.”
Other riders commented on their participation. Morris Futernick, a Miami resident who was a good friend of Kenny, said the highlights for the ride were “seeing people gathering in his memory, in his honor.”
“This was a cause that he was emotional about and he loved Boys Town Jerusalem,” Futernick added.
Sharona Whisler, a Hollywood resident and executive director for Zionist Organization of America’s Florida Region, said “It was a really nice event. It got me on a bike after probably over seven years of not riding one and I plan to do it again next year.”
Whisler’s husband Josh added, “It was an event for unity — everyone coming together to do something positive.”
Paul Spiewak, an 89-year-old Hallandale Beach resident, participated in the ride despite having pacemakers put on and 17 operations for cancer and chemotherapy.
“I wake up every morning and I look up and I say ‘Thanks’ because every day is a gift,” Spiewak said regarding this opportunity to ride a bike.
This article was originally published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and may be found here.