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Zeke's Bar Mitzva Book

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Zeke's Bar Mitzva Book - Page Text Content


1: It’s hard to connect the person you are today with the baby and toddler you once were. But I have sweet memories of those days. You used to wake up early when we lived in Boston, and we would go out together to Jamaica Pond in the bright morning to throw rocks into the water and watch the ducks. I remember sledding with you next to the pond in your first winter. We were among the first of our friends to have kids, and so you were the star of JP Jews. the potluck shabbos dinners that the chevreh there shared. I remember your first friendship with Shai Wexler. You would swat at each other and try to stick each others hands or other available appendages in your mouths in the manner of six month olds, still figuring out what was you and what was the rest of the universe. I remember taking both of you on the bus from our apartment in JP to Brookline one day, and accidentally dropping the two of you through the back of a bus stop bench. I attribute your dedication to public transit to that moment. - Aba

2: When you were a tiny baby, I held you heart to heart. The warmth and love I felt from you was a wonderful miracle. When you were four years old we went to a children's concert together at Ashkenaz. At one point, the performers asked for a volunteer to sing "Twinkle twinkle Little Star". Some kids might have been too shy, but your hand shot right up and they picked you. You marched up to the stage and fearlessly belted out the song. I was struck, not just by your courage, but by your helpfulness. They needed someone to sing the song? You were ready to help! Your fearlessness and your helpfulness have clearly remained with you, even as you have grown from a baby to a young man. May you go from strength to strength and may God bless you always! Granma K (with writing assistance from Aba)

3: After we came to Berkeley, we would wander around the neighborhood. Unable to tell my toddler no, I would follow you as you led me down people’s driveways so you could read the letters on their license plates. One lady, unmoved by my protests that you were exploring, told us to get off her property because we were creeping her out. I remember the cakes you baked, following your own invented recipe,with perhaps some minor guidance from Ima. One of them actually turned out pretty well! We have had many hours of reading together, from Dr. Seuss all the way to Shakespeare. Now you’re a young man, but you are not afraid to be sweet, as well as strong. Here’s to many more years of sweetness and adventure! -Aba

5: Zeke started out traveling as tiny tyke carried in a carrier in the parks of Boston, and around and around the Jamaica Plains pond. He has grown to cycle amazing distances, a tour de force at any age. In between, Zeke has shown wonderful curiosity about things and about ideas. He recited Twas Brillig and the slithy Tove up Deer Mountain to Kika and me (endlessly and over and over, I might add). He has faced fierce marmots that frightened an unnamed relative. He braved thunder, lightning, and baseball-sized hail on a mountaintop. After that, he rarely walks anymore, preferring two wheels to two legs, unless it is the meandering paths of the Berkeley Hills, where he can guide superbly. A few more ghostly and ghastly stories of the people on the paths would make this a sought after adventure for Berkeleyites. In the course of his maturing, he has become conscious of the need to save the better parts of our world, like greenery and water and oxygen to breathe and paths to bike. I am particularly fond of the time Zeke took Ruth and me on a tour of the edible schoolyard. He was especially proud of the new beehive. Zeke also took me cycling across a bridge to Vallejo, and then we stood waiting at the old bus stop for some time that seemed long, because there was no sign indicating that there was a new bus stop. Zeke’s creative powers shone in his 250+ page novel about crypts and cemeteries and pyramids and other disquieting topics. I am glad to learn that Zeke is now editing his writing. I am impressed, though, at how well Zeke writes. Savta is looking in at Zeke’s accomplishments. She said the saddest part about dying was missing seeing Zeke and his brother and his cousins grow up. I had no answer and no comfort for her grief at missing the wonderful person that Zeke grew to be in the years since we lost her. Zeke, she is riding co-pilot with you on all your trips. I am glad to be part of Zeke’s Odyssey, and to see him come back Homer-bound from all his trips. - Saba Saba

6: We still remember the first time our families got together. We went on a hike in Tilden, near Volmer peak, and you wore alligator rain boots and got carried a good portion of the walk. You and Jacob didn't exchange a word, but somehow from that little outing sprang an amazing friendship, both between you and Jacob and between our families. It's been such a pleasure getting to know you over the years, sharing jokes and book recommendations, comparing notes on hiking and path routes, drinking smoothies and eating cheese rolls at our place and sharing Shabbat dinners at yours. Your biking adventures inspire us and we love hearing about all the new challenges and routes you are planning. It's great seeing your interest in how bikes work and how to fix them. Celia has especially fond memories of the many games of Rat-a-Tat-Cat she played with you and Jacob when you used to come over every Wednesday. Here's to many more years of friendship! Love, Sophia, Jonas, and Celia

7: In my first year of preschool, I would come home and report all that had happened that day in great detail to my Mom. Then Zeke and I became friends. After that, when my mom asked what I’d done in school, I would say, “Played with Zeke,” and that was all. But after my second year at Gan Shalom, something horrible happened. Zeke went to Kindergarten. After that when my mom asked me what I’d done, I would respond, “Nothing.” I missed Zeke. Zeke, you are a great friend and have been since preschool. We’ve had so many adventures together! Remember when you inherited Sun Flower Seed? Neither Snake Survivor nor I could have guessed how many rats would follow. Al, Mirror, Hugo, Summer, Spring, okay, I’ve lost track. Remember when you introduced me to 2009 territory quarters and traded me American Samoa, and later I told you about the national park series? We looked online and thought that anyone could submit designs for new releases. So we started plotting how we could get to national parks to take pictures that we could enter. It took a long time to realize that that wouldn’t happen. Remember when we made a board game, Race Around The World, and submitted it to ten different game companies? One of them, Gigamic, I think, asked for a company name so we invented ZeJae games and created a joint email account, the password to which we promptly forgot. Every day, I would race to check whether any of the companies had responded.

8: I don’t need to ask if you remember the Great Path Walk, because, of course, you do. We thought it would be 20 miles and it turned out to be 36. Remember Mendel, the boy who doesn’t have two dogs? And the Scandinavian Bum from Geilo, and the well traveled Gypsy? That was a long day. So long that at the end locking up a bike sounded like a great and impossible ordeal. We’ve done so much together, from preschool to Amitim, and I’m looking forward to doing lots more in years to come. Congratulations on your bar mitzvah! Your friend always, Jacob

9: At 7 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in early August, Jacob Lehmann Duke and his longtime friend, Zeke Gerwein, set out on an adventure they had been planning for more than a month. By the time they returned home that evening, they had accomplished something remarkable. Epic. Perhaps even a little crazy. They had walked every path in Berkeley in a single day. “We walked between all the paths and never got on a bus, in a car, or on BART,” Jacob said proudly. “After 15 miles, we were exhausted but somehow kept going. After 25 miles, we rested at my grandma’s house and were barely able to move on.” Thirty-six miles in 13 hours. Their route ranged from a nadir of 72 feet in the flatlands to a zenith of 1,297 feet at the crest of Summit Road: 5,405 feet of total elevation gain and 4,727 feet of total elevation loss. It was an incredible feat, especially for such young men: Zeke is 12; Jacob 11. "Every good hike brings you eventually back home"- Edward Abbey -Keith Skinner, Berkeleyside

10: “The Worst Trip We’ve Ever Been On” When Zeke was around 6 we decided to take the kids out for a canoe ride in the waters of the Assawoman Nature Preserve near Bethany Beach Delaware. I think that Joel and I might have had memories of our parents taking us out canoeing in the waters around Turtle Island off the coast of Maine. There were birds to watch in the fir trees, we could swim in the cove, and there were beaches to explore. Daniel, Joel, and I were all quite little on those trips and fit in the canoe pretty easily, and our parents both spent more time canoeing and had a firmer grip on how to steer than I ever did. Our kids were a bit older, Kika around 10 and Yardena 7, so Zeke would have been 6. Between all of them, and all of me, I think we displaced a great deal more water than the Gerwin family did in the 1970s. I suppose the first clue that this wasn’t going to be quite the canoe trip of our childhood came when we all got in and the canoe settled so far into the water that it seemed to be only about an inch above the surface. As we pushed off we realized that anytime a kid moved even a little we rolled precipitously over in that direction. Even moving the paddles from one side to the other threatened to capsize us, and produced a rocking motion that made the kids feel seasick. It is possible that memory exaggerates, but not by much. No one was having a glorious time gliding through the water. It might be more accurate to say that we listed precariously while slowly moving in the general direction of the Delaware Bay. Kids were complaining of nausea. The occasional passing motor boat didn’t help matters, as even a small wake threatened to swamp us. Swamp us was a pretty accurate term because this was August, the tide was low, and we were in the middle of pretty swampy water. In our efforts to find something interesting to show our kids we had headed down a small water way in between some patches of land covered with cattails. If there had been any birds around they were gone by the time our noisy and increasingly restive crew came into view. There were a lot of scenic flies in the narrow passage that began feasting on us, and it smelled pretty fetid as we scraped the bottom and started to run aground.

11: Seeking to make the best of an increasingly fraught situation, I suggested that we tie up and explore the “island.” The kids responded eagerly, happy to get out of the smelly channel and tipping canoe. We all tumbled out onto the new land, nearly turning the canoe over in the process. The first explorer to set foot on the new land immediately named it after herself, “Kikaville.” This didn’t endear her to Zeke or Yardena, so we hurriedly promised to explore another island as well. That increasingly seemed like a good idea because this one was full of rough roots and branches and sharp grass that was cutting the kids' bare feet (so as not to get their shoes wet in the canoe), and aside from a hunters blind for shooting at ducks, there wasn’t really a lot to see on Kikaville. We got back into the canoe, backed out of the stinky swampy channel, and set a course for a somewhat larger land mass that was comfortably in the middle of the bay, not a swamp, had a tiny tree on it that someone might climb or get some shade from, and seemed a promising spot for Zekeville. I think it was clear to everyone that Yardena was going to have await a separate voyage in order to claim land of her own. In fits and starts we made our way towards the new island. A bit of wind threatened to blow us off course or overturn us, but we kept at it and made it to land. This time I stayed behind in the canoe, digging in to the muck with my paddle to hold the canoe steady and prevent a repeat of our near disaster when getting out at the last island. Zekeville was, as I recall, a bit higher up than the water, and we had to boost some of the kids up onto the surface. I pushed from below, Joel pulled from above, and Zeke led everyone onto his island to see what could be seen. They were immediately attacked by some of the native insects, who bit them up pretty well, but they pressed on for another few moments intent on circumnavigating the island and reaching the tree. It was not long before I heard some screaming, and Joel shouting about staying away from the poison ivy. In a flash they were all in the water, where they were attacked by small stinging jellyfish. I brought the canoe over with sirens flashing, and they all piled back in as I did my best to hold it steady. We weren’t exactly chased off the island by anything mobile, which was good because we couldn’t really make any speed in our canoe. But Joel did tell me that he thought we had a limited amount of time to pick up Tecnu and hose down the kids before they started breaking out in poison ivy. The thought of the next few days of itching and scratching and screaming gave us renewed vigor and I don’t think we capsized more than once on the way back to shore. I don’t really remember how we managed to get everyone and everything in and on the car, and I don’t think we left any kids behind, but it was a very quick trip to the Happy Harry drugstore to pick up tecnu and then back to the beach house to dump everyone in the shower and hose them down with tecnu. In the end, we must have gone pretty quickly because nobody got poison ivy that time. It cannot have been that short a time, because to the tune of “The Sloop John B” Zeke and his cousins composed original lyrics to their own ballad about “This is the worst trip we’ve ever been on.” -Uncle David

12: Zeke, I knew great things were going to come from you before you even came into my classroom because of the way you put so much of yourself into solving that problem in fourth grade. I was so honored and amazed that you let me help you with that. When I really got to know you as a student in fifth grade, I was immediately impressed with your sense of purpose--it came through in your dogged determination to solve math problems, the genres of reading that you took on and, of course, your incredibly unique style of writing that was permeated with the conviction of your voice. Then there was your dedication to the plight of wolves that you managed to weave into almost everything we did (I think you even wove them into your Discovery diaries, right?). So it did not come as a shock to me when you confidently strode into my room and announced you were going to ride your bike all the way up the west coast, nor will anything you decide to do surprise me. There is nothing beyond what you commit yourself to accomplishing! Congratulations!! -Rick Kleine

13: Some people say that most younger brothers get along with their older brothers. But these days, when you wake up, I always have a sinister plan to annoy you. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but my favorite part about having an older brother is the reading and the love. I remember you reading to me from the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, and I’m still enjoying that series. When I was really little, you read me baby books- Good Night Gorilla is such a classic! Do you remember building that epic city in the sand on the beach at Sea Ranch, and directing the water from the creek? Eventually it was all wiped out by sea level rise- maybe that was what made you such a dedicated supporter of the Sierra Club. I know how it annoys you when I talk in a baby voice, and even though I don’t usually promise, I promise to try not to talk in a baby voice at your bar mitzvah. On the contrary, I’ll try to talk in the voice of a distinguished, ninety seven year old Scottish scholar (my regular voice) (just kidding!). I remember when you used to sleep in my room, and when you lobbied Ima and Aba to get a room of your own. I’ve adjusted to having my own room, but I remember that I used to miss you. -Jesse

14: Israel! We arrived at the airport and immediately started fooling around, overjoyed to be liberated from the airplane. It only made us fool around more when Aba showed us the “Welcome Home” sign sponsored by Tnuva cottage cheese. One of the highlights of the trip was going through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. I remember you holding my hand in the dark tunnel, as our song echoed off the walls. I will never forget the moment when we are at the Dead Sea. I wasn’t worried. Then you showed me some scabs on your elbow and asked, “Do you think I’ll get salt in here?” I remember how much fun you had floating way out for a long time. You said you were trying to reach Jordan, and you probably would have done it if Aba hadn’t brought you back. Meanwhile, I tested the waters with one leg and discovered that eczema and the Dead Sea don’t go together. Another moment that I won’t forget is when you and I were digging together at Beit Guvrin. We found so many pieces of pottery and animal skulls. Remember how awesome the Kinneret and the Hexagon Pool were? I didn’t suffer horrible Dead Sea salt in my wounds, and we had so much fun swimming together. Can’t wait for our next family trip to Israel! -Jesse

15: We hiked slowly up the trail at Pinnacles, passing through the cave and past the crazy rock climbers. We had lunch at the top of the trail, overlooking the reservoir. Then we decided it would be fun to do some climbing ourselves. We scrambled up about ten or twenty feet, and then I started asking if I could get down. You kept climbing, though, and I wanted to climb with you. Aba came up to help, and he made the great decision that there would of course be a place to hike easily back down if we could just get to the top. The top of what looked like a 70 foot slope! We climbed over gravel, we climbed over sand, we climbed over sandstone. Small rocks crumbled beneath our feet and fell to the path far below. When we reached the top, lo and behold, there was no way down but the way we had come up, which wasn't looking very inviting. You bravely climbed down, and I started to cry. Aba and I somehow made it down. You helped me through that day, reassuring me that we would make it. And I hope I can help you someday the same way you helped me (but maybe not reassuring you that you won't need the fire department!) - Jesse

16: Passover 2013. Zeke had just turned 12 and was giving dramatic readings of My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs to his new cousin Asa, who was about 9 months old. I recall that at some point during that visit Zeke asked me for feedback on an adventure story he was writing. I suggested that he needed to think more about character development, and he asked me if he should use direct or indirect characterization. Even as I explained to him that there is no single correct way to craft a story and he needed to make these decisions himself, I was amazed to hear those terms come out of such a young person’s mouth. With all of Zeke’s accomplishments in the last year, I now expect to be routinely astonished by his words and deeds. Zeke’s dramatic interests now focus on Shakespeare, and I look forward to him regaling Asa with scenes from Hamlet and King Lear the next time we are all together and Zeke is not busy becoming Bar Mitvah. -Uncle Daniel

17: I was out for a bike ride with my friends Alice and Wendy, doing the Three Bears. As I was saying goodbye to Wendy at Bear Creek and Camino Pablo leading into Tilden, we see this young person on a bike crossing over from the other side. Wendy remembered seeing him at the start of our ride and here he is again. As he approached us, I couldn’t help but ask where he was headed. He said into Tilden to get back to Berkeley because he just finished riding the Bears. I took a 2nd look at him on his hybrid bike wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a bright yellow reflective vest and Crocs! In my surprised voice, I said, “You just rode the Bears?” He said, “Yes. It took me 3 hours.” I said, “How old are you?” “I’m eleven.” My jaw dropped. He just did that huge ride from Berkeley in jeans and Crocs BY HIMSELF! The mom in me kicked in and I started asking a series of questions. “How are you feeling? Have you eaten? Do you have food and water? Do you have a phone? Did you have any problems?” He said, “I’m fine. I have everything I need in my pack.” After I got over the shock of this child riding by himself all day, I settled in on getting to know him as we rode back up to Inspiration Point, where my car was parked. He chatted happily all the way up the hill with no signs of breathlessness. His name is Zeke Gerwein who attends King Middle School (they were out of school that day). He loves to ride and proceeded to tell me about all his riding adventures with his dad; the most notable was a four day tour averaging about 50 miles a day. He wants to create a cycling blog to talk about his love of riding and the places that he wants to visit on a bike. At 11 years old, he has the spirit, wisdom and maturity of an adult (OK, not all adults). At Inspiration Point, we separated and I told him to be safe as he went home. I couldn’t help but think how I would never let my kids do something like that, alone, at such a young age. On the flip side, given the freedom to explore and be independent, kids are really capable of much more than we think. I’m left to find that middle ground for my kids. In the mean time, I give a huge kudos to Zeke Gerwein. You’re AMAZING! –Cyndi Wong

18: Your biking adventures began one shabbat afternoon when something called you to ride north (ok, northeast) on the Ohlone Greenway. I don’t know what fed your northward obsession. Maybe someone put magnetic flecks into your bedding at night? Anyway, we had a pleasant ride out to Albany Middle School, which you insisted for years was El Cerrito High. A few hours later you lobbied for another ride down the Greenway. I capitulated and we rode to the end of the Greenway, returning in the dark to make Havdalah. Was it the next day or a few weeks later that we rode down “scenic and safe” San Pablo Ave to Pinole? I remember it was early on a Sunday morning when we left, fueled only by a piece of toast. I blame the fact that I brought no food or water along on your urgency to leave immediately- never mind the fact that you were ten. Mistakes were made, but not by me. On the plus side, we did have amazing views of the blue bay and sky and green marsh as we explored the Bay trail, which dead ended there by a little beach. On the down side, you bonked in Pinole and we had to stagger to a nearby Walgreens and desperately buy some junk food to get your blood sugar back up. For many subsequent rides, I managed to keep up my track record of at least one major mistake per ride. Who can forget the quality time you spent at age ten with the friendly teenagers of Martinez, while I rode over the beautiful shoreline along the strait to Crockett to get the car, returning to pick you up at the Amtrak station an hour and a half later? Or the glorious headwind that built our characters as we made the journey from Dixon to Davis, clinging to each other’s handlebars, inching our way through the last seven miles? It’s difficult to choose my biggest mistake. Some might say it was the time we got pulled over by the police as we rode (and walked) the shoulder of Highway 101 from Ukiah into Willits. Lucky for us, I did not have any outstanding warrants. While the friendly officer did use up the last of our daylight before releasing us to coast down the last miles into Willits, he didn’t throw me into the slammer and turn you over to the Department of Social Services. Maybe it was the time outside Leggett when we flipped a coin to decide whether to continue biking down Highway 101 in a rainstorm. The coin said to go on, so we rolled back onto the highway in the heavy rain, counting the seconds between lightning flashes and thunder cracks, praying that the lightning would stay far away. Luckily few drivers were foolish enough to be on the road that day, and we made it through the rain to Humboldt Redwoods State Park safely.

19: Or perhaps it was my decision to avoid dangerous Highway 20 on the trip from Willits to Fort Bragg, choosing instead to take the backroads tour of the area’s pot grows and go out Fort Bragg-Sherwood Road. I selected a day after it rained, so the road would be muddy, and we ignored the “Road Closed 20 Miles Ahead Due to Slide” sign. What a joy it was to get our butts kicked, pushing our bikes up steep, muddy hills over and over, always wondering if we were on the right road. It was beautiful and wild- we didn’t see another person on that road all that day!- but so hard and slow that we sat by the side of the road as it got late and went through all the stages of mourning for our planned multiday ride up to Garberville. We enjoyed this experience so much that we did it twice, returning over the road we travelled the next day after an invigorating night’s sleep with our tent set up in the middle of the road. I remember your back rack, which you had used to give a ride to your friend one day, finally gave up the ghost on that trip back and had to be broken off and bungeed to the top of my rack. Willits never looked so good as it did the next night when we rolled into town completely exhausted. That whole miserable experience just made it all the sweeter when we finally reached Fort Bragg that summer, after a comparatively easy slog over Highway 20. All our rides since then, whatever mountain we were biking up and however late at night we were finishing, have seemed comparatively easier since that ride. Some day we’ll have to go back and do it again. The redwoods, the dunes, the beaches, the giant talking lumberjack statues- we have seen some amazing sights together, and I look forward to many more trips together. Thanks for inviting me along on your adventures- you make my life much richer than it would ever be without you! -Aba

20: When friends ask me about my "new grandchildren " I describe Zeke as a kid with 40 pounds of books in his backpack riding his bike 100 miles a day. When they accuse me of exaggerating, I can honestly say-not by much! I have gotten to know Zeke during his transition from childhood to teen hood. He is a person who can be super silly. He takes you along with him in his fun and laughter . He is also very serious about people and causes he cares about. He has a very high " echpatiyut" quotient . I am very touched seeing his interaction with his Grandmother Karen. I also appreciate how he remembers his Savta Brenda. I enjoy being with him, Jesse and his Ema and Abba. Together they create a warm and welcoming Jewish home. His commitment to the preservation of our planet is obvious in his thoughts and deeds. I am always learning new and interesting things when I am in his proximity. Of course I can't predict where this talented young man will go-but looking back on his path so far I imagine that his journey in the future will be a carbon friendly exciting adventure. -Ruth

21: Zeke, I was so touched by our recent trip to the Marin Headlands. You coaxed and cajoled and pressured me to commit to taking a day for a beautiful bike ride with you, you planned out the whole route, guided me how to use the BART elevators for my bike, what stop to exit, how to navigate the SF streets, encouraged me to manage my diabetes for exercise (ie when to take my dextrose tabs), cheered me on up the steep hill (but didn't tell me that it was strenuous for experienced cyclists until halfway up so as not to discourage me beforehand!), congratulated me getting to the top, advised me to put on my jacket for the descent so I wouldn't get cold, and rejoiced with me at the beauty of the sand, waves and sky at Rodeo beach. In short, you were a total mensch. I enjoyed the day thoroughly and most of all, I enjoyed seeing the mensch you have been becoming. I also have been thinking about the years in which any suggestion that you might be wrong or need to change was anathema to you to recent times in which you actively search for ways to improve yourself and help in the world. In particular I was struck one recent week erev shabbat when I railed at the family that I needed more help on Friday afternoon in getting ready for shabbat when it was a "short Friday" in the winter--some would have been defensive, but you immediately said, "you know, you are right, Ima. I should be helping you. i will plan my friday afternoon so that after i have my snack and read for a while, I will have some time to help you." And you did! I love singing with you on bike rides and watching you dance whether at Saba's wedding or to Birkat Hamazon. I love your love of good food and watching you begin to cook more of your own dishes. I love watching your love of good books and desire for a better world. Too many things to name. I love you. -Ima

22: --Uncle Zac

23: ZEKE’S PURSUIT OF THE BOOK I remember the first time I saw Zeke struggling up to the checkout desk with a stack of books about as high as his torso. He held the top one down with his nose. It was an eclectic pile, including Ivanhoe, other classics, history and also more popular fiction. I recall thinking, “That ought to hold him for a month at least.” Ha ha. A day and a half later, he returned them. All. We talked about some of the ones I had read myself, and it became clear that he could get through a large adult level book in under an hour. Hmmm. This was about to get good. Since that time, I have read two books he has written, both madcap adventures with the second a considerable advance over the first. I have watched as he inhaled large numbers of our 23,000+ book collection. Never one to limit himself, he regularly brings in stacks of Public Library books as well. He has recommended and lent wonderful ones to me, especially on world travelers like Alistair Humphreys, who biked around the world in four years. I savored every bite. It is a trip that Zeke is planning for himself. When he isn’t devouring books at lunchtime, he painstakingly traces the coastlines of far off lands, strategizing his own upcoming world ride. I confess to worrying as he hunches over books, in the time honored posture of the Yeshivah bucher. Imagine all those old photographs, children with bent spines, immersed in learning. Wonderful—and one sided. He turns the pages as if only glancing at them, when actually, he reads every word. The pursuit of knowledge will always be a passion for him. It comforts me to know he has this other vigorous aspect of his life, and that soon he will be pedaling the planet, lifting up, flying free. --Amielle Zemach

24: Z | Zeke, biking with you last summer from San Francisco to Gualala was an awesome experience. Going across the Golden Gate Bridge was great, as was White’s Hill. What a great beginning! Going up the side of Tomales Bay was even better when we got to the bakery. I was so glad you wanted to stop there! Finally we made it to Ariana's ranch near Valley Ford. The ranch hand was so nice to us. We had to walk up the last steep hill to the little cabin we were staying in. That hill was so steep that we decided to just eat whatever we had left in our panniers rather than going down to Valley Ford for dinner and having to go up the hill again. When we arrived at the cabin and got off our bikes, I thought you would just sack out on the bed for a well-deserved rest, but instead you immediately pulled out your maps and started planning out the next day's ride! It was so beautiful heading up the coast (especially after the big hill after Jenner), lunching at Fort Ross, and riding through Sea Ranch with views of the bluffs and the ocean. After that one small part of your incredible ride last summer (1851 miles!), I thought it was great to see people I’ve known for 35 years, like Mayor Tom Bates, honor you appropriately at the City Council meeting. I also really enjoyed our East Bay Regional Park hike in January this year, even though I only did 18 miles of it. You and Benya are so fast! You clearly would have done 3.5-4 mph if I hadn’t slowed you down. I’m also looking forward to the ride this summer from Kings Canyon to Yosemite! Most of all, I treasure your curiosity about the entire world, your commitment to making it a better place, and your strength to carry through on your ideas. Now they say you are becoming a man, but in my mind you’ve already got a lot of “manly” characteristics that will serve you well throughout your life. Mazel Tov! -Pop-pop

25: Benyamin remembers having fun debating with Zeke on a backpacking trip how many days Sylvia could go without water if she were a camel.... What Azu likes about Zeke is how kind he is. I like how Zeke asks me about how my day was or what I think about a political issue. I like his thoughtfulness about things. I like his matter-of-fact adventurous spirit. I like going on hikes with him. Auntie Shosh

26: Zeke and I rode 650 miles together in the Summer of 2013. We started our epic ride at the Mexican Border Fence on Father's Day, and traveled together for eleven days. We rode loaded bikes, except for cooking gear. We camped six nights, had a hostel, a motel, a friend-of-friends, and two family stays. We met a few fantastic people, including Manu and Lydie and their 3 kids, from France (all on two tandems and a trailer), and Floyd of Keens, out on his "crust ride". He was 8,000 miles into his 12,000 mile ride when we met him. He was 67, and we rode together for a few days. We ate like kings: Fish Tacos, pastries at Carmel Highlands, a lifetime of seeds, the World's Most Durable Salami, and best of all, Avocado Honey.That bottle of honey got us up some mighty inclines. | Some of my favorite memories from that ride include: the Silver Strand, the water taxi, swimming at San Onofre, meeting Zeke’s family, the headwinds, the heat and the Hill into Lompoc, with the broken spoke, Zeke getting sprayed with the water truck, the Elephant Seals at San Simeon, the beautiful stretch into Big Sur, the feeling of seeing my family home after a quarter century, the fields by Watsonville, the ride up from Santa Cruz. Coasting past Zeke as he pedals downhill with his sail-like panniers and 75lb body weight. Coaxing Zeke up the long hills with the honey. As anyone who has ridden with him can attest, Zeke is a first-rate navigator. He can glance at a map in the morning, and know every intersection for the rest of the day. He's also got a sharp wit, a good vocabulary, and a vivid imagination. A little heavy on the wetlands tours, though. All in all, an unbeatable riding partner. Truly a testament to a superior upbringing. Zeke, you could have been raised on a steady diet of video games and broken promises, as lots of kids are. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Oh wait -- yes there is. Your parents have done you right so far, and I am proud to count you as my friend.--Jonathan Farmer

27: ANYONE can bike south(easy) on Hwy1. We reserve a special place of love and respect in our hearts for ANYONE who rides NORTH(Hard). Zeke you’re amazing!-PD Bird

28: Zeke and I rode the "Lost Coast" together in July 2013. This is one of the most challenging places to ride, with 24% grades and long uphills. I fully expected him to walk some of the hills, but he did not. At the end he remarked that it wasn't as bad as he'd expected. We had lots of fun conversation, and when a car from behind approached he would say "Potato!” “Corn!” was for cars approaching, and “French Fry!” for motorcycles coming from behind- not too many of those on the Lost Coast! --Bill Taylor | Today we met Zeke Gerwein. He was going the other way. He is riding the entire west coast of the USA, from the Mexican border to Canada, raising money for Sierra club. He looks like Harry Potter. Small, brown hair. Brown eyes with crooked glasses. We only did 50 miles today. It was tiring though because the winds were against us. I figured because they were with Zeke and so be it. -Dana Zed, 7/19/2013

29: Zeke went to the border with Mexico, pointed his bike North and commenced riding. He rode all the way to Seattle. Why stop in Seattle? Because he was tired of riding a bike that weighed as much as he? No. Because he wanted to sleep indoors? No. Because he missed hot and cold running water? No. Because he felt he had done enough? No. Because he missed his mommy? No. Zeke stopped only because he ran out of adult supervision. Soon Zeke will not require adult supervision and then I don't think he's going to stop. Ever. --Ben Lewit | Moments with Alice: Killer blueberry pancakes and eggs and coffee in Oregon. We were joking that they should just close down the restaurant after we arrived as we were going to eat ALL the breakfast. The sun coming out of the fog to visit in Washington, crossing some lovely rivers and discovering that we both knew the words to most of the songs on They Might Be Giants 'Flood' Riding with Zeke and Joel in the dirt in the Marin Headlands. Joel had a tube of goo that he was going to eat, and he said 'It replaces all your electrolytes!' and Zeke said '...and your values'. -Alice Stribling

30: On a coastal highway in Southern California, drivers sped by in the comfort of their cars, unaware of the small 12-year-old boy biking two miles per hour downhill through forceful headwinds. This was only one day in Berkeley resident Zeke Gerwein’s 1,851-mile-long bike trip up the West Coast this summer. For more than a month, Zeke rode his bicycle from the Mexico border to Seattle. As part of his Bar Mitzvah social action project, Zeke used his biking trip to draw awareness to climate change, raising more than $2,000 for the Sierra Club. A growing ambition Zeke started biking recreationally when he was 9 years old. It was not long until he began biking as far north as he could, taking daylong biking trips of 40 to 60 miles with his father. He needed no encouragement from his parents in developing his interest in climate change or long biking adventures. Sometimes, Katya Gerwein said, they would have to discourage him. “He would say, ‘Can I bike to Napa?’ ” she said. “No, you’re 10. You can’t bike to Napa.” “Can I bike a mile?” Zeke would ask. “OK,” she’d say. “So what’s really the difference between a mile and 40 miles?” Zeke would reply. “You can’t see me. I have a cellphone. What’s really the difference?” Naturally, it wasn’t easy for Zeke’s parents to allow him to go on such a long journey.After months of persuasion, Zeke’s parents finally approved the trip. Soon after, Zeke approached the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club about setting up donations with the organization. Michelle Myers, director of the chapter, noticed Zeke demonstrated a wealth of knowledge about climate change, including some information she wasn’t entirely aware of. “I just wanted to give him a bullhorn and have him walk around and talk to people,” Myers said. After hearing about Zeke’s ride through the Sierra Club, Councilmember Kriss Worthington proposed the City Council honor Zeke with a Proclamation of Honor, which it did at its Oct. 1 meeting. Zeke is the youngest person Worthington has honored in his 17 years on the council, Worthington said. “Many people might think of doing such an ambitious thing, but they wouldn’t actually do it, because it’s very physically and emotionally demanding to actually follow through with it,” Worthington said. “It took a lot of discipline on his part.” Biking up the West Coast Katya Gerwin said most of the inspiration and planning for his biking adventures come from Zeke himself. It took him nine months to plan his own 1,851-mile trail, using maps he ordered from the Adventure Cycling Association to plot rest stops, restaurants and camping locations. On June 16, he set off from the fence at the U.S.-Mexico border with Ashmodai, his bike, which is named after the “King of Demons” from a story about King Solomon. Each morning before sunrise, Zeke would leave from his campsite or family member’s home and bike anywhere from 40 to 80 miles in a day. Over the course of his trip, Zeke was impressed by the changes in landscape, from the shores of Southern California to the Lost Coast in Northern California, which was one of his favorite destinations during the trip. “The diversity was sort of cool to see, the contrast between the Lost Coast and Los Angeles within 700 miles,” Zeke said. Despite facing harsh headwinds, steep inclines and a few stops for bicycle repairs, Zeke reached his final destination of Seattle on July 30. After meeting many kind strangers during his trip and staying with generous family members and friends along the way, Zeke said he has gained a more positive view of humanity. The next endeavor? Worthington and Myers already have high expectations for Zeke’s future. Zeke, however, doesn’t yet know what he wants to be when he “grows up.” Right now, he’s just enjoying his algebra class, reading as many books as he can and, of course, planning his next trip. For his next adventure, Zeke has already started planning his route along the Sierra Cascades and is trying to find enough people to bike with up north and all the way back down to Berkeley. “The sky’s really the limit for him,” Myers said. “Zeke for president. Why not?” -Tara Hurley, The Daily Californian

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  • By: Joel G.
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  • Title: Zeke's Bar Mitzva Book
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  • Published: over 5 years ago