In honor of Sidney Gussen’s bar mitzvah, he and his father, Adam Gussen, will be conducting a year of baking, cooking and selling specialty food items to raise funds for Chesed 24/7. Chesed 24/7 is a charity organization that provides constant care to the elderly, sick, disabled or any family in need of care. “No one should ever be without food, shelter and emotional support—no one should ever feel alone” is the philosophy that Chesed 24/7 was founded on. Twenty four hours, seven days a week, this important nonprofit organization provides assistance anywhere and anytime they can.
Sidney originally thought about Chesed 24/7 for his bar mitzvah project because this organization is very close to his family’s heart. When Adam was in and out of the ICU after a major 10 level spinal fusion surgery that went horribly awry, Chesed 24/7 was there for him and his family. They provided Shabbat meals for almost two months for the Gussen family, during Adam’s time at Hackensack Medical Center and later Kessler for rehab, and while Adam was recovering from his complications at Pascack Valley. The Gussen family also benefited greatly from the kosher kitchen and pantry that Chesed 24/7 constantly stocks at Englewood Hospital’s maternity ward.
Adam and Sidney’s first event was a challah sale. Adam has been baking challah for a long time, and has received rave reviews. Together, father and son bonded by making large 750g egg challahs with different toppings such as sesame, poppy and “everything but the bagel” seasonings. They also make unique toppings including pretzel salt, crystal sugar, caraway and more. The trick behind the Gussens divine challah is a Japanese method called “Tangzhong,” which allows enriched bread like challah to become incredibly light and fluffy as well as stay fresh for longer.
Going into Sidney’s first baking event, he and his father had no idea what to expect. However, within an hour and a half of Adam’s Facebook post about the event, 36 loaves of challah had been ordered. In fact, Adam had to close the post because they simply could not accept any more requests. Starting Thursday night, October 14, Sidney and Adam cracked and separated around 180 egg yolks. Starting that Friday morning, they were both up at 6:30 a.m. kneading the first batch of dough, so that all the challah would be made fresh. They finished around 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
“It feels very good to bake, cook and spend all this time, knowing all the money we make will be going to charity,” said Sidney. The first event pickup was at their house a few doors down from Congregation Shaarei Tefillah in Teaneck.
One of the goals of Sidney’s bar mitzvah project is to do a pop up food event. Once a month, Sidney and Adam will create some type of special food and sell it. As of now, they plan to alternate every month between selling challah and another type of food. They hope for their next event to cook empanadas for Chanukah. The idea behind this is to create non-traditional fried foods for the holiday, other than doughnuts and latkes. Some future ideas to prepare on Sidney’s list are pizza, deli meats, cannolis, chopped liver and brisket sandwiches, schnitzel sandwiches (aka “junk food schnitzel”) made from crushed potato chips and pretzels, and more.
Sidney’s bar mitzvah parsha next September is “Ki Teitzei,” when all of their proceeds will be donated to Chesed 24/7 to aid in their mission of human kindness. Their goal is to raise $5,000 by that time. Adam accepts cash and Venmo, and can be reached on Facebook at Adam J. Gussen.
By Julianne Katz