CHIEF RABBI, HACHAM SHAUL KASSIN 5681 – 5779 / 1921-2018

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MOMS CHALLAH BAKE 2018 BAKING CHALLAH WITH THE STARS

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras



That is exactly what our very own Linda Sadacka, the modest, vibrant and big-hearted founder of MOMS on a Mitzvah (“MOMS”), thought of when she arranged for the fifth annual MOMS Challah Bake on November 28th, 2018. Linda created MOMS in 2012 as a grassroots hesed group to help a critically ill child receive life-saving medication. MOMS grew into an organization that initiates life-enhancing, life-extending, and life-saving activities. Projects span from providing food and clothing for those in need, organizing community events, and even arranging medical transfers of patients to top hospitals. Vital services include spiritual support for a refuah shelamain the form of tehillimand berachot campaigns, hafrashat challah, organizing shiurimgiven by respected rabbis, and counter-terrorism education and advocacy.

Each year’s extravaganza has a unique theme or recipe. This year’s goal and theme was to unite women in this huge mitzvah by baking with their favorite community personalities. The stars/influencers were asked by Linda to walk around the room and mingle with the guests, giving them kneading and baking tips. In the past, there were women on stage leading the Challah Bake. Linda wanted to convey the messagethat Jewish women can become whatever they aspire to be and still display tzniut, modesty. Linda loves uniting women from different facets of the community, and is inspired by their dough preparation and saying berachot together.

The 2018 Challah Bake took place at the Sephardic Community Center. The Center generously hosted the gala. Linda intentionally chose to hold the event in the evening instead of the late morning in order to allow working women to attend, and to encourage mothers of young children to be totally present, so they could avoid rushing through the dough preparation in order to leave in time to drive carpool. Many women also wanted to bring their school-age children to the bake. At the Challah Bake I met a family with three generations represented: the grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter.

The event was not only sold out but was also overbooked! “Calls kept coming in and I tried to make more room,” said Linda.

The 2018 Bake was dedicated in memory of Miriam (“Mimi”) Chammah, a”h, and Naomi Houllou, a”h, and for a refuah shelemahfor Yehudit bat Miriam. Mimi, a beloved MOMS member, tragically passed away in 2017 at age 28. Baking challah in Mimi’s memory was particularly meaningful, as she almost single-handedly organized the second MOMS Challah Bake. Linda described Mimi lovingly, as a personable, authentic, kind, talented, and dedicated person, and a powerhouse to boot, who brought her little girls to hesed missions.

Naomi Houllou, a”h, was also a very young mother with a large family. She was passionately devoted to Yeshiva of Flatbush PTA, Ladies Auxiliary, and numerous hesed efforts in the community. Her husband Avi was one of the Challah Bake sponsors. The family of Yehudit bat Miriam generously donated hundreds of high-quality fabric aprons (instead of disposable ones provided at past events) for the Challah Bake.

MOMS member Golda Bekhar was again the Challah Bake event planner, and was responsible for the beautiful venue, décor, set up, attendee check in, and more. This year’s affair included live coverage by @jews_of_ny and a live feed on Instagram by kosher.com, the authority for kosher recipes. The Challah Bake sponsors were: @junees, @mattsmunchies, @wondermillsflour, and Dr. Jack Sadacka’s medical office.

Before the event, Linda elatedly told to me that none of the attendees would go away empty-handed. She had arranged for enough sponsored “give aways” for each woman, in addition to the fabric aprons described above. Sponsors also donated the auctioned items, which weredisplayed on beautifully decorated carts. Yours truly received a bright yellow pashmina shawl and a black beaded bracelet, as well as a shiny red bucket with all the ingredients needed to bake six to nine challot, just in time for Hanukah.

Claudia Bildirici (recipe developer, chef, and caterer), microphone in hand, kicked off the Challah Bake, walking around the room and engaging the crowd. She confided, “We all basically use the same recipe to bake challah.” Kay Robyn Ashkenazi, a key MOMs member and a food blogger, also addressed the women and delighted them with pointers and personal stories. Large screens allowed women throughout the room to see Claudia and Kay Robyn easily.

The energy in the room was rousing and contagious. Women were chatting, laughing, kneading dough ardently, taking pictures, and having pure fun. Women who had never met, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic, connected and united to bake challah! I spoke with women and young girls who had never baked challah before and with others who bake challah every week. Some had never attended a Challah Bake, while others come every year. Many expressed their gratitude for uniting with friends and family for such a worthy mitzvah. I met local women from Brooklyn as well as those who had traveled from Deal, Queens, and Long Island for this special event.
A woman named Beth was there with two lovely daughters-in-law on each side of her. Two young women in their twenties, high school friends, were at the Center for their first Challah Bake. A lovely young French woman, Sarah R., introduced herself and divulged that she had written to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about finding her naseeb.

I met the recently appointed Civil Court Judge Gina Levy Abadi, who was proud to participate in her first MOMS Challah Bake.

Rebbetzin Violet Chkouri recited the special berachafor the hafrashat challah, the separating of the challah dough. Hafrashat challahis one of the three unique mitzvot assigned to women (the others are lighting the Shabbat candles and taharat hamishpacha). The hafrashatakes place before the dough has been formed into any sort of shape. Many believe that the time before reciting the berachais a fortunate time for personal requests and tefillot.

I walked around the social hall in search of the community’s Instagram stars. I was happy to see Michelle Mozes, a new MOMs member who designed the Challah Bake poster. Michelle is a talented artist and young mother who I met several years ago! Rachel Ostroy, owner of Pink Label, was responsible for gathering many of the wonderful items for the auction and gifts for the attendees.

I chatted with Chagit Sofiev Leviev, mother of four and a businesswoman, who told me about the school her father established for his fellow Bukharan Jews in Elmhurst, the Queens Gymnasia. Hisgoal was to make it possible for all Jewish children in New York to attend religious schools instead of public schools. I found and introduced myself to culinary experts Aliza Salem and Emily Massry. I recognized other food stylists and stars, Vanessa Haberman, Sabrina Ovadia, Paulina Ashkenazi, and Gitty, creator of Valour Magazine.

I brought along a close friend, Fran Bast, who had never been to a Challah Bake of this magnitude. Her overall impressions were positive and joyful: “I entered into a large space where all I could see were red dish tubs! The venue was filled with women chatting and putting on aprons and hugging one another.
I was a bit reticent until a woman next to me, Yehudit, immediately became my best friend. The Instagram stars were very funny, giving us simple directions, spicing it up with antidotes, and encouraging comradery. One new aspect for me was the reciting of the prayer of ‘taking challah.’ A participant led each table in the prayer, often in memory or in honor of someone in their lives. It was moving and uniting at the same time.

So, I carried home this enormous tub with an enormous challah dough ready for Shabbat. The challah was delicious!”

An added bonus for the women was the beautiful voice of singer Nechama Cohen who reached out to Linda to sing at the Bake.

Linda sums up her feelings about being Jewish and baking challah as follows:

“Being Jewish shouldn’t be something anyone hides. We should be proud. Maybe it’s the ubiquitous appeal of challah that also attracted me to take on the Bake as an annual MOMS event. America developed a little crush on the chosen people. Jews are officially cool. That’s the feeling I want our participants to have. For the older generations, being Jewish meant identifying with Israel, remembering the Holocaust, and fighting assimilation and intermarriage. For our generation I’m hoping it means that and taking pride.

When we do events of this nature – bringing 100 people or more together for a quality Jewish experience, I’m hoping to make it a positive unifying experience. My goal is to increase Jewish identity and content and to mainstream Jewish pride by enrichment.”

 Tizku l’mitzvotdear Linda!

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach. Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships, and conducts personal growth workshops throughout the year. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com (www.lifecoachellen.com).