This past week, over 80 women from across Washington Heights gathered for a community-wide challah bake at Mount Sinai Jewish Center. This is the second event of its kind following the success of last year’s challah bake, and was coordinated by the same community institutions—Mount Sinai Jewish Center, the Shenk Shul, Nshei Washington Heights and the Breuers community—as well as the Bridge Shul.
“Last year’s challah bake brought such an amazing energy; even after it was over, there was a buzz in the community,” said Rebbetzin Racheli Taubes of Mount Sinai. “We really wanted to bring it back, change the format a bit, and recreate the energy.”
As participants poured in, they were each prompted to write who they were davening for while making challah on a board at the front of the social hall. The large round tables were outfitted with challah-making stations, complete with bowls, mixing utensils and all of the ingredients for challah, as well as bottles of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning, a fan-favorite for challah topping. Snacks were provided by Heights Market, a new kosher marketplace located near the Yeshiva University campus.
Shoshana Polakoff of Mount Sinai opened the program with praise for the warmth of the community and introduced Rebbetzin Taubes for the challah-making portion of the evening. Rebbetzin Taubes demonstrated an easy, no-rise recipe for everyone to try at their individual challah stations.
Naomi Hellman of Khal Adath Jeshurun, a.k.a. the Breuers community, introduced Cindy Klugmann, also of Breuers, who spoke eloquently about the significance of the mitzvah of challah. Miriam Schloss of the Shenk Shul, a Yeshiva University community synagogue, led hafrashat challah and made the bracha aloud for the participants. Rebbetzin Giti Hoffman of the Bridge Shul closed the program with a challah cover raffle; both Rivka Lindemblatt of Shenk and Sara Fink of Nshei Washington Heights, a women’s organization for the community, taught participants how to braid their challahs in four- and six-strand braids.
“This type of event really brings all of the pieces of our community together,” Rebbetzin Taubes explained. “It creates a spirit of togetherness and comradery between all different women—from the different shuls and institutions—and any community would benefit from something like this.”
Participants not only walked out with their own challahs for Shabbat (plus a new topping!), but also left feeling spiritually uplifted. Overall, the Washington Heights community challah bake was another smashing success and highlighted what makes the neighborhood so special: a sense of unity and comfort.
By Channa Fischer