June 22, 2024
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Hundreds Participate in First Annual Yavneh Challah Bake

Sometimes the most wonderful and inspirational ideas come from children. Such was the case when the young Geisler, Goro and Smilow girls came up with the idea for a school-wide challah bake upon their return from a similar community-wide event a few months ago. The girls, students at Yavneh Academy, “wanted to make one like it happen for Yavneh, so their friends could all experience a night like the one they did,” according to Leyna Goro. And that’s what they accomplished, when 322 women and girls participated in the first annual Yavneh challah bake, benefiting Tomchei Shabbos and Project Shabbat, held at the Marriott at Glenpointe on May 25.

Before the mothers and daughters returned home from that original challah bake, the Yavneh one, says Goro, “began to take shape. Yavneh is a second home to our daughters, and it truly showed in this request. How could we refuse? We decided to email our principal, Rabbi Knapp. He made time for us right away, following up with a larger meeting with us and other administrators. Rabbi Knapp, Rabbi Penn, Joel Kirschner and Barbara Rubin each played a key role in helping us execute our plan. They helped us secure the event location and assisted us with logistics and guidance along the way, such as developing as online interface for signup.”

Many other people and companies were involved in the event’s success. Beth Geisler said that “our amazing volunteers came to help measure the ingredients and put them into individual containers.” Additionally, Amazing Savings donated hundreds of pans for the event, and Best Glatt, Grand & Essex, and Dash Printing provided discounted prices on other supplies. Goro remarked that “all were eager to help, and understood that each dollar saved meant more for the worthy causes.”

The standout volunteers were Yavneh’s eighth graders. Rebecca Adler, Zoey Buchsbayew, Kira Elbaum, Sadie Engelsohn, Tamar Fineberg, Miriam Fisch, Kayla Goldberger, Hope Goldstein, Navah Klayn, Gittel Levin, Michal Meisels, Efrat Putterman, Zoe Raykher, Shira Sedek and Kayla Waitman, “were all hands on deck,” according to Barbara Smilow. They “took initiative setting up the tables and alleviated so much of our stress. As Rabbi Knapp put it in one of his emails to us, ‘They are truly extraordinary…such shining examples of young community members and volunteers.’” Adds Goro, “We couldn’t have asked for a more helpful, enthusiastic group. They are truly a credit to Yavneh Academy and a wonderful representation of its fine students.”

Many local businesses also supported the event, by donating prizes for a raffle. Geisler adds that “volunteers contacted stores and restaurants to ask if they wanted to contribute. We are grateful to the many businesses that were eager to support Tomchei Shabbos and Project Shabbat.” Raffle tickets were available for sale when people arrived at the Marriott. The eighth graders manned both the registration table and raffle sales. According to Smilow, “It is because of them that we were able to make over $1,000 solely from raffle sales!”

After registering and purchasing raffle tickets, participants found their seats at the carefully appointed tables, decorated in Yavneh’s school colors of red and white. Rabbi Knapp greeted the crowd. He thanked the organizers, saying “What a special night. You came forward with this idea and here we are tonight due to you. We all owe you a big collective thank you.”

Barbara Rubin, the associate principal of general studies in Yavneh’s middle school, then spoke about the origins of Project Shabbat. It began a few years ago, when a teacher, Jordana Boruchov, wanted to go to the mall to bring a taste of Shabbos to the many Israelis who work there. On Thursdays, rotating groups of eighth graders bake challah and make potato kugel and noodle kugel. The students then go to the Garden State Plaza where, according to Mrs. Rubin, “we visit Israeli after Israeli and bring them a taste of home and Shabbat. Project Shabbat is a kiruv program. Many [of our recipients] have begun to put on tefillin and light candles. They have joined us for Yom Ha’atzmaut. This taste of Shabbos has warmed the hearts of many Israelis.”

In addition to raising money for both organizations, the Yavneh challah bake, according to Smilow, “enabled so many women and girls to get together to perform this beautiful mitzvah.” Ellin Orlinsky, who attended with her daughter, Grace, said that “there are three specific mitzvot just for women, and sharing this with my daughter and our school brings together two things that I love.” Ricki Scharf, who was there with her daughters, Ella and Hanna, added “I’m so happy I got to spend this time with my girls.” Vivi Septimus, a teacher at Yavneh, attended the event with her daughter Jillian, and together they baked challah for the first time. It was, said Septimus, “a wonderful way to spend time with my daughter while doing something I’ve never done before.”

The dough was mixed, braided and put into tins, ready to be baked at home. Nightfall marked the beginning of Lag B’Omer, whereupon Malky Giniger enthusiastically led the women and girls in simcha dancing. Says Smilow, “The night was filled with laughter, smiles and lasting memories. I truly hope that we get to do this again!”

By Robin Tare

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