Under festive lights and a twinkling Magen David hanging from the ceiling, around 400 people participated in the Baltimore Shabbat Project’s family challah bake at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC on Oct. 24. Families clustered around tables in the gymnasium and followed instructions left on the tables, mixing and braiding challot into tins to take home and bake.
“Shabbat is our shared heritage,” said Nisa Felps, project manager of the Baltimore Shabbat Project. “It’s what we all share, together.”
The Shabbat Project is an international collaboration meant to encourage greater community participation that began in 2013, the brainchild of South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. Once a year, synagogues and Jewish communal hubs all over the world gather Jews from different denominations together to bake challot, host meals and celebrate Shabbat in large numbers. This year, 1,400 cities were expected to take part, with more than 500 in the U.S. alone.
“I think it’s remarkable,” said Julie Wolff, who attended the challah bake with her daughters as she has in previous years. “I think it encourages families who wouldn’t necessarily gather together to make challah with each other, let alone with friends. … It encourages that, and really promotes a sense of community through challah baking, and that’s beautiful.”
Her daughter Dorie declined to comment on whether the Shabbat Project challah was better than her mother’s typical challot.
Throughout the evening, participants at the challah bake were treated to speeches and a performance by the children of musicians from the Chamber Encounters Music Academy Baltimore Bows.
Also present at the event were 40 students visiting the U.S. from Scheiber Sandor Gimnazium in Budapest, Hungary. The school is partnered with Beth Tfiloh through SOS International, a program that matches Jewish day schools in different countries for teacher and student exchanges. Each of them wore yellow shirts emblazoned with “Knead Help?” across the back.
“As Jews,” Felps said, “we’re more alike than we are different, and we may practice differently, but really inside we’re very much the same.”
On Oct. 25, the JCC hosted the Great Pink Challah Bake in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the Jewish Federation of Howard County held a challah bake that night as well.