April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Challah and Chizuk Event–A Huge Success!

Bergen County–There is a custom to begin building a Sukkah after Yom Kippur has ended, so that we can leap from the heights of our spiritual planes directly into a new mitzvah. This year, across Bergen County, many people also jumped into the mitzvah of Challah.

A few women who felt the need to do something above and beyond for a choleh in the community approached several shuls with the idea, and the shuls agreed to organize a challah-baking event. Various baking professionals led the way at these functions, which took place in the shuls themselves, or in private homes. Hundreds of pounds of dough rose that night, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the air. But more importantly, the bracha was made for hafrashat challah, followed by a Yehi Ratzon for the choleh, Aleza Shulamit Bracha bat Rachel Hinda, and there was a resounding, “Amen” that echoed through the walls. Many perakim of tehillim were recited.

“It is our hope that the mitzvot performed for Aleza will continue on,” said Esther Slomnicki, a Bergenfield resident who hosted BMOB’s challah-making event. “That women will walk away with the tools to make challah more frequently, and to do so with Aleza in mind.” And of course, to continue to pray for her good health.

The Challah event organized through Keter Torah was graced with the presence of Aleza herself. Accompanied by her young daughter, the two were actively involved in the challah braiding and baking hosted by Jamie Weiss. “I am so grateful to those who attended this widespread event,” Aleza said. “My family and I would like to thank the entire community for their thoughts, prayers, and assistance during this difficult time.”

Registration for these events far surpassed anyone’s expectations, and although space was limited at certain locations, nobody was turned away. “It’s incredible how one small idea can pull a whole community together to do something amazing for another person,” said Weiss. We constantly focus on how destructive lashon harah can be, how fast it can spread and cause irreparable damage, but here, the opposite was demonstrated. The power of social media, texting, and positive communication produced so many altruistic actions, and hopefully, a change in the path of healing.

After JLBC published the article on Friday October 3, the desire to get involved spread through Bergen County, and caught fire. Two other shuls sensed the urgency involved, and wanted to join in. The sisterhoods of Beth Abraham and Ohr HaTorah each arranged for 40 bakers to work at home and to be a part of this mitzvah in a different way. Collectively, there were over 250 people involved in praying and baking for Aleza on Sunday night.

“I think what is most profoundly obvious about this event is that it’s a reflection of the fabulous potential of our community,” said Deena Segal, who, along with Jenny Horwitz organized YIOT’s program. Although several shuls scrambled to be involved last minute amidst the chaos of yom tov preparations, it was impressive to see how many people heard about the special evening and made the effort to attend, despite the pressures of the impending holiday of Sukkot. Many bakers, instructors, and organizers volunteered their time for this mitzvah, whether they knew Aleza or not.

In addition to the prayers, tehillim, and challah baking that took place, many of the shuls involved also raised money to support I-Shine, an after-school program run by Chai Lifeline, that supports families facing illness or loss. Aleza’s situation has become a platform on which other families are being helped as well, building on the mitzvot being done in her name.

“The amount that the community can accomplish as a group far surpasses that which can be done by an individual alone,” Aleza said. “We hope that through the merit of the community uniting, I receive a refuah shelema, and the community remains united to assist others, both in bad as well as in good times.” May we all continue to pray and perform acts of kindness for Aleza, and may she be healed completely and quickly.

By Sarah Abenaim

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