YAHALOM SEMINARY Bridging the Gap

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COMMUNITY MEMBERS JOIN IN WORLDWIDE CHALLAH BAKE

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras



On October 26th approximately three hundred women came together at The Center on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn for an afternoon of achdut and challah making. This was the fourth annual Moms on a Mitzvah (“MOMS”) Challah Bake, organized in conjunction with The Shabbat Project, an organization started in South Africa to get Jews from around the world to celebrate Shabbat.

This year’s Challah Bake was dedicated in memory of Mimi Chammah, a”h, a beloved MOMS core team member who tragically passed away this year at the age of 28.  The Bake was scheduled on the same day that communal Challah Bakes took place globally, in alignment with The Shabbos Project.  The goal was to bake challah to be enjoyed the Shabbat of October 27/28, Parshat Lech Lecha, at the same time that millions of Jews around the world were coming together to celebrate Shabbat.

I personally had been looking forward to this event for months.  Yes, I had baked challah on occasion, but never with hundreds of inspired women at such an extravaganza!

Linda Sadacka, the vibrant and passionate founder of MOMS invited me to the Bake. I was later asked to cover the event for Community Magazine and Linda and I agreed that I could not be both a journalist and an attendee at the same time.  Linda insisted I take home the pretty red tub with the pre-measured ingredients, which was provided for each participant, so that I could put together my challot at home.

The theme of this year’s Challah bake was the creative and fun aspects of challah braiding. Baking challah in Mimi’s memory was particularly meaningful, as she almost single-handedly organized the second MOMS Challah Bake.  Linda lovingly described Mimi as a personable, authentic, kind, talented, and dedicated person, and a powerhouse to boot, who brought her little girls to hesed missions.  At the Bake I met four of Mimi’s elementary school classmates from Shaare Torah.  These lovely women came together to bake challah and especially to honor Mimi.

Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of South Africa and founder of The Shabbos Project,addressed the women at the MOMS Bake via video, thanking Linda and MOMS for being wonderful partners of The Shabbos Project. 

He explained that a Challah Bake is about Shabbat preparation; these challot will go on the tables of our families, friends, and communities to bring the magic, warmth, and togetherness of Shabbat into our lives.

The goal of The Shabbos Project is to reunite Jews by keeping one complete Shabbat together.  Rabbi Goldstein, concerned that Jews had drifted away from their heritage and each other, proposed getting an entire community to experience one Shabbat.  His pilot project was in South Africa.  Most of the participants observed Shabbat for the first time and Rabbi Goldstein said it “brought Jews together like never before.

It became a massive movement and spread globally.  Communal challah bakes have united women through preparing challah dough together to be eaten on Shabbat.  Challah Bakes have been held in over 1,000 cities throughout the world, allowing over one million women to came together to reconnect to Judaism through the magic of Shabbat. 

Linda is ardently invested in the goals of The Shabbos Project and the Challah Bakes.  For her, the beauty of the MOMS Challah Bake is that it unites women from every facet of the Sephardic community as well as other communities.  Any differences are forgotten and the women respect and enjoy each other! 

The Bake was held in a huge gym at the Sephardic Community Center. Before the Bake started, I walked over to the podium to meet the two women who would lead the group and demonstrate the kneading and braiding, and the Master of Ceremonies, Adina Miles. Adina produces videos to promote Challah Bakes worldwide.  She encouraged the first time bakers not to worry if they have never baked challah before.

Linda chose the theme of “bringing the cool into challah braiding” including holiday inspired challah braiding designs. “I want to excite women about challah, and engage them in challah braiding, which is the fun aspect of challah baking,” Linda explained.

Gitty Salomon of @challahart instructed the women in dough preparation.  Four years ago Gitty began baking challah as a hobby, after being invited to a Bake.  She believes in making challah baking creative, fun, and cool, and that practice makes perfect!  Gitty showed the women how to braid a menorah shaped challah.

She explained that Sarah Imeinu baked challah for every Shabbat. Gitty encouraged the attendees to continue this inspiring tradition.  She commented on the meaning of the ingredients. For example, water is symbolic of Torah, which we cannot live without.

As Gitty narrated the steps of dough preparation, Kelly Cohen, private chef and owner of www.my-organic-diary.com,demonstrated each task, including the design of a gorgeous basket challah.  Her specialty is “mindful, clean eating and lifestyle . . .in the French way.” Her brand is making eating healthy and fun! 

The energy in the room was exciting and contagious.  The crowd was diverse, with high school age students alongside senior citizens.  There were even young mothers with toddlers in strollers.  Some women came alone, others with friends or relatives. I met 12 girls from Yeshiva Prep High School who came to the Bake with the Director of Student Life, Amy Oren.  The girls were thrilled to be at their first Challah Bake.

Women at the Bake had pure fun-chatting, laughing, kneading dough ardently, and taking pictures.  Women who had never met, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, connected and united to make challah!  I spoke with many who had never baked challah before, as well as with women who bake challah every week.  Some had never been to a Challah Bake while others come every year.  Many expressed their gratitude for uniting with friends and family for such a worthy mitzvah.

Gitty Salomon directed the women in the hafrashat challah, the separating of the challah.  Hafrashat challah is one of three unique mitzvot assigned to women.  The hafrasha takes place before the dough is formed into any sort of shape.  The time before reciting the beracha on the hafrasha is considered an eit ratzon, a fortunate time for personal requests and tefillot.

Around the room were many tables that were sponsored by different individuals. They were sponsored for the merit of shidduchim, or for a refuah sheleima. Some tables were sponsored in memory of loved ones, or by husbands in honor of their wives.  What wonderful tributes to these women!

South Africa’s hottest young Jewish singer from Cape Town, Choni G, in the U.S. for The Shabbos Project events, performed at the Bake.  He kept the magical energy flowing!

A video created by Nancy Mizrahi highlighted MOMS’ many incredible projects.  Two sets of parents expressed their gratitude for MOMS’ life-enhancing gifts to their children. The first were the parents of Elisha Cohen, a”h, the terminally ill child who Linda brought to NYC for a last resort therapy.  The parents of Haim Shmuel, a young French boy who died of cancer, spoke about MOMS bringing their child to New York and making all his dreams come true.

Other key MOMS projects were: #bringbackourboys, Coma Checklist, Counter-Terrorism, Israel Advocacy, Police Appreciation Day, Project Soulmate, Hurricane Harvey Rescue, and Project Exodus for French Jews.

Acknowledgements

Golda Bekhar, the MOMS event planner, was responsible for the beautiful venue, décor, set up, attendee check-in, and more.  She claimed that she couldn’t have done it without her team of volunteers, including Golda’s own daughters, Paula, Bella, Lori, and Raquel, and Linda Sadacka’s daughters, Sarah, Simcha, Eva, and Abby, who were especially helpful with setting up.  Linda’s daughters and their Ateret Torah classmates were also in charge of flyer distribution and pre-measuring the challah ingredients. Twenty Yeshiva of Flatbush High School girls hung up event flyers (arranged by Shifra Hanon, PathfindersDirector).

Key adult volunteers were Maggie Bawbeh, Laura Greenstein, Pamela Massry, Eva Shammah, and MOMS core team members, Murielle Mizrahi, Nancy Mizrahi (technology), Silia Chakalo, Shelly Hidary (graphics), and Jennifer Tawil.

Other MOMS team members whocollaborate with Linda on all campaigns are:  Erica Azran, Fortune Mizrachi (finances), Kay Robyn Ashkenazi (social media posts), and Margo Levy.

Generous sponsors provided approximately 40 lovely gifts for the free raffle.  The winning tickets were taped to the bottoms of the large red baking tubs. Avenue S Mini Market, Freddieon U,andShalomGrocery on Coney all contributed ingredients for the dough.  The Sadacka medical office, as in the past, was a big-hearted sponsor.

May we have the zechut to continue to keep Shabbat together!

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).