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Record-Breaking Brooklyn Challah Bake

In preparation for this year’s Shabbos Project, 2,000 New York women join together to bake a record-breaking-ly long challah, sharing the beauty of Shabbos with all of Hashem’s children.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

There are certain moments when we find ourselves marveling at the incredible lives we live as Jews. As the high dies down from the incredible Great Challah Bake, a prelude to the revolutionary Shabbos Project, we find ourselves experiencing such a moment. Wednesday evening, October 21, the Grand Prospect Hall was set up to accommodate over 2,000 women, 2,000 challah doughs, and one record-breakingly long challah. With the catchy slogan “We Knead You!” the Shabbos Project committee invited all Jewish women of Brooklyn and the surrounding areas to a history-making communal challah baking event. The event was spearheaded by the tireless efforts of Mrs. Chani Mandel of Project Inspire. Mrs. Mandel, who is actively involved with outreach, attending Project Inspire Shabbatons and accompanying the JWRP trips of unaffiliated Brooklyn mothers touring Israel for the first time, has been working for months to pull off last week’s incredible event. Her enormous shopping list consisted of 180 dozen eggs, 525 5-lb bags of flour, 75 5-lb bags of sugar, 65 gallons oil, 42 containers salt, 200 cans of spray oil, 21 1-lb bags yeast, 4,200 oval aluminum pans, 2,200 8-oz water bottles, and 2,100 sports water bottles! 

She also had to organize minute details ranging from poppy and sesame seed packaging, and bigger efforts like going down to Be’er Hagolah and visiting each classroom with token bilkelach, as she invited the girls to the event. “It has just been an incredible, eye-opening journey of achdus,” Mrs. Mandel says. She laughs as she relates a mishap that occurred just a week before the event. “We were measuring out 2,000 portions of flour,” she said, “and we found ourselves extremely shorthanded. The seminary girls who were supposed to help never showed up! So I called a friend of mine. Next thing I know, her entire block shows up! There were 5-year-old boys standing next to 50-year-old women and measuring out flour!

It was incredible, not to mention really funny… but at least the flour got measured!” With the help of Mrs. Mandel and her crew, the Great Challah Bake set out to look like, well, the greatest thing since sliced bread! Imagine 2,000 Jewish women — frum, unaffiliated, less affiliated, and in between — joined together in one room to perform the age-old ritual of baking challah for Shabbos. It brings to mind Sarah Imeinu and the crowds of women she drew to her, or Rivkah Imeinu and the smell of fresh challah that permeated her home all week long. 

Reservations for the Great Challah Bake were required, as each table was personally assigned a diverse mix of women, so that everyone would have a chance to meet people outside of their normal bubbles. Each table was also designated a “challah coach.” The coach, chosen for her personable and friendly disposition, did her best to create a sense of family at her table and assist with logistics such as braiding and measuring. She also had the opportunity to start the ball rolling by setting up learning partners or Shabbos guests between the women right in front of her — creating connections that will potentially transform, and may have already changed, lives.

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