Altruistic Italian cycling legend

By Karen Blauer

Cycling legend Gino Bartali was a multiple winner of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia cycling races, and an athlete recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations.

The honor, given to gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel, and Bartali’s heroic story will be celebrated this fall at a bike ride organized by Congregation Shir Tikvah, an independent synagogue on Portland’s eastside.

The third annual Simkha (“happy”) Cyclathon takes place Sunday, Sept. 11 at 8 am, on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Register online or at the event.

“Gino Bartali risked his life, over and over again on a bicycle, in order to save that of a stranger,” said Rabbi Ariel Stone of Congregation Shir Tikvah.

“We will be cycling for fun, but also from the vantage point that was his, to consider his courage.”

At the height of World War II, Bartali enjoyed notoriety and prestige as a world-renowned cyclist. He was notorious for his epic training rides across German-occupied central Italy.

A secret stash of forged papers that could have cost him his life went undetected in the handlebar and seat of his trusty steed.

Bartali is thought to have saved some 800 lives distributing exit visas to Jewish families hiding in houses and convents across the countryside.

A devout Catholic, Bartali worked for a Jewish rescue network run by the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa, and later for the Assisi Underground, run by local priests. He rarely spoke about his wartime efforts, instead insisting that “you do good deeds – you don’t talk about them.”

After Bartali died in 2000, his son Andrea shared his father’s story; Yad Vashem recognized Bartali in 2013.

Shir Tikvah’s ride is open to the public. There are 5, 10 and 40-mile route options. Buxton Trailhead is the starting point for all rides.

Bring a picnic and enjoy live bluegrass music performed by Mountain Honey at noon at the Buxton Trailhead. Enter a raffle for a chance to win one of five prizes.

Proceeds from the event will support Shir Tikvah. Donations will be matched sponsors. Shir Tikvah is a synagogue with an independent streak. Its approach to learning includes acts of social justice.

For more information, contact Congregation Shir Tikvah at 503.473.8227.

Altruistic Italian cycling legend

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