Motorcyclist Steve Goode was on the way to Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich. But on a recent phone call from a hotel room, he doesn’t know exactly where he is.
“Indiana, in … what the hell town am I in?” he said with a laugh.
Turns out he’s in Richmond, Ind., a few days into a 75-day trek called the Great American Deli Schlep, during which he will stop at 42 Jewish delis across the United States to raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity. He started out at Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen in his native Chicago, then hit Shapiro’s in Indianapolis, then Stevens & Stevens in Louisville, before turning around to go back up to Michigan. It’s all part of a meticulously mapped-out sequence that will bring him in contact with every state in the continental United States.
In Ohio, he stopped at Corky & Lenny’s in Woodmere on June 6 – his fifth stop.
Goode, a Jewish motorcyclist and member of the Chicago Chaiway Riders club, was joined for lunch by 20 members of the Cleveland Shul Boys.
At Corky and Lenny’s, he said his Great American Deli Schlep is a way to indulge his love of long-distance motorcycling while performing a mitzvah. Every dollar he raises goes to Mazon’s programs to provide training and resources to anti-hunger organizations in the most food insecure states, maintaining a network of hundreds of partners and developing strategic initiatives to advance policies that end hunger and the systems that allow it to persist.
The Shul Boys is one of 42 Jewish motorcycle clubs in the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia that make up the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance.
Goode is being joined in many cities, as in Cleveland by Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance members who are offering home hospitality, deli companionship and financial contributions.
Ian Abrams, Shul Boys founder and president, said the club plus some individuals donated over $1,300 to help Mazon “educate and engage individuals and communities about the scope of hunger and how we can work together to end it.” He partnered with Mazon, a Jewish nonprofit working to combat hunger, to help with the logistics and getting the word out.
Goode, a retired real estate developer and longtime cross-country biker, was inspired to organize the schlep by a map of the country’s best Jewish delis compiled by The Nosher in 2018.
On each stop, he tries to meet with the deli owners for conversation and photo ops – some have been wary to connect with him because they think he’s going to ask them for money for the cause, which he’s not, he said. He’s well aware of how the COVID-19 crisis battered restaurants – even many of the well-known delis on his list, like Katz’s in New York and Canter’s in Los Angeles – in addition to low-income families and service industry workers.
“Before the pandemic, the number (Mazon talks) about is like 38 million people are food insecure, which means at some point during the year, they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, or how they were going to feed their families,” Goode said. “That has jumped, according to Mazon, to about 80 million” during the pandemic.
He’s also meeting with locals who can follow his trip in blog form on Mazon’s social media pages and to ride into town with local chapters of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance.
Goode, 66, who has served on the board of his Reform synagogue, B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Ill., and helps organize the Greater Chicago Jewish Festival, has been in love with motorcycle touring since high school. In 2013, he touched all four corners of the continental U.S. The following year he touched all 48 states. In 2017 he visited all 47 national parks.
The Deli Schlep has been the most challenging to plan, he said, in addition to the most rewarding. He credits his wife, Judi, who used to accompany him on some of the excursions, with reaching out to Mazon with the idea, because he admits she is even more involved in Jewish causes.
To contribute, visit bit.ly/3vz5Qex.
JTA contributed to this report.