June 2, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Stamford’s Mega Challah Bake

Jody Hadge and her mother, Sharyn Baer.

Have you ever heard of a Mega Challah Bake? Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. Many people, specifically women, gather together to bake challah for Shabbat. On May 22 the community in Stamford, Connecticut held its own Mega Challah Bake, orchestrated and carried out by Jewish Women Connected (JWC) and Chabad of Stamford’s Shemtov family. More than 400 women and teenagers gathered on the grounds of the Stamford Italian Center in the facility’s massive outdoor tent for this unique and inspiring event. The time, effort and commitment by so many volunteers, spearheaded by the Shemtov family, truly paid off in a wonderful evening.

Since the gathering was so large, it could not take place inside the Italian Center, and there were even shuttles taking people to the far end of the Italian Center. There were light refreshments, snacks and special treats by The Sweet Wheels Co., including an ice cream bar and waffle bar. In addition, there were chips and dips, vegetables, fruit, and more. Everyone received their own bowl, pink apron with a yellow pin for the hostages, Shabbat candles, flowers and challah ingredients.

When everyone was acquainted, Leah Shemtov, co-director of the Chabad House in Stamford and director of Gan Yeladim, started the introduction with a touching tribute to her Bubby, ob”m, who recently passed away.. The stage had multiple projector screens for those seated in the back.

Once the bake began, the Shemtov daughters, along with their mother, had their own setup, and went step-by-step for the crowd to hear and see how to make their dough. Everyone followed along with each step by adding a little flour, then salt, then mix. When the actual making of the challah finished, Mussie Shemtov, daughter of Leah, spoke about how it was Pesach Sheni, and everyone got a delicious sweet treat made out of matzah from the middle of their tables.

A group of freshman girls from different schools get together at the Mega Challah Bake.

One of the most meaningful parts of the evening was listening to guest speaker Tal Kalmanson, an 18-year-old Israeli girl whose father, Elchanan, was tragically murdered on October 7, but not before he miraculously rushed over 100 kilometers to Kibbutz Be’eri and saved 100 people. The young woman spoke about her connection to her father, and also of her uncle, Menachem Kalmanson, who was shot trying to help others on Black Saturday.
Tal’s emotional speech created pools of tears in the audience, but also inspired gratitude and a shared love for our homeland among the women in the tent. Towards the end of the event, a female soldier from the Israeli Army who served in Gaza led everyone in Tehillim for our brothers and sisters in Israel. In addition, awards were given to morahs from Chabad of Stamford’s Gan Yeladim.

Overall, the Mega Challah Bake gave participants the opportunity to connect with different women in the community, hear insightful talks, and watch a quality challah baking demonstration. This event would not have been possible without the anonymous dough sponsor, the yeast sponsors and sugar sponsors, as well as everyone who helped in setting up, cleaning up, checking people in, and supervising logistics.

The Shemtov family did a magnificent job, and one can only hope there will be another Mega Challah Bake in the future, or a similar event, that brings the Jewish women of the Stamford community together. In the words of Leah Shemtov, “Challah is so much more than just bread—it brings blessings.”


Julianne Katz is a former Jewish Link intern now studying at the University of Connecticut.

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