‘A Worldwide Kitchen’

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More than 1,000 people got their bake on at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore in Owings Mills last week.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. last Thursday, Jewish mothers and daughters bonded over bread at the Great Challah Bake, a prelude event to the worldwide Shabbos Project that was coordinated locally by Etz Chaim: The Center for Jewish Living and Learning. They cracked eggs, pounded flour and braided dough, all in preparation for the weekend global Shabbat celebration.


“Baking Challah is such a great way to mentally prep yourself for Shabbat,” said event volunteer Renee Jorisch. “Shabbat is about bringing the feminine divine presence to your home. I bake challah every week, and I love sharing this emotional experience with the community.”

Challah Bake organizer Rivka Malka Perlman, who led a team of more than 200 volunteers, stressed the beauty of the global challenge to keep one entire Shabbat together.

“We are not just in the JCC gyms, we are in a massive, worldwide kitchen,” said Perlman. “I can feel the walls tumbling down and oceans melting away. I got a message this morning from a Challah Bake in Israel. The Shabbos Project is bigger than us.”

Sponsoring organizations included The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the JCC and Seven Mile Market. The event began on a high note as people filled their plates with catered food and danced around the baking tables. Exposing many participants to the art of challah baking for the first time, both newbies and seasoned pros joined forces to make fresh dough from scratch.

“I’ve never made challah before, but I am so excited to learn,” said occupational therapist Jessica Gertz. “I am thrilled to be just one person in this global event.”

After showing a Shabbos Project video on huge projection screens, Perlman invited a special guest onto the stage. Frida Granat, 88, came to celebrate with her granddaughter after hearing about the event from Perlman in Seven Mile Market that morning. The Eastern European-born bubbie never dreamed that she would see hundreds of women participate in challah baking without fear.

“I survived Auschwitz,” said Granat. “When we were at the camps, I was told to go in one line, and my parents went in the other. I never saw them again. However, seeing this event all these years later makes me realize how far we’ve come.

Leaving the stage to thunderous applause, Granat joined fellow bakers and rolled up her sleeves. With more than 750 bowls set up, mothers, daughters and friends shared stations as they crafted the perfect loaf.

“I am at a table with my whole neighborhood,” said Melissa Scnidman. “I didn’t grow up observant, so I know both the secular and religious sides of Judaism very well. I am thrilled to share my challah techniques with my neighbors.”

Stay-at-home mom Beth Goldstein looked forward to being hosted by a Baltimore family for the entire Shabbat. Goldstein kept her first Shabbat in Israel. Since then, she’s tried to sprinkle more Judaism into her life by keeping more customs and volunteering with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

“I went to Israel for the first time with my daughter last January,” said Goldstein. “I really grew in my Judaism after that trip.” Hoping the Shabbos Project will become an annual event, Goldstein could not wait for the weekend to begin.

“Look at this room. It gives me chills,” said Goldstein. “I think the Shabbos Project is such a unique idea.”  Similarly, Sandra Swerd could not wait to test out her baking skills. Communicating through sign language with her translator, Swerd did not let her lack of hearing get in the way of enjoying the event.

“This is my first time ever making challah, and I was curious to try it,” she said. “I’ve never done it before, and I was curious. I heard that thousands of people came out for the project in South Africa last year. It is incredible.”

From speeches to giveaways, participants and organizers deemed the Great Challah Bake a success.“This is more than I could ever dream of,” said Perlman. “Spreading Shabbat awareness has filled this room with merriment and enthusiasm. We are all united by the idea of Shabbat, and this event was the icing on the cake.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi, Thank u for put my notes in it.. It was so cool! The last name Swerd is wrong spelling.. Last name is Swird.. Thank!!

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