The women and girls of the Five Towns had a night out last Thursday, October 23. They didn’t go to the movies, the mall, or a cafe. Instead, they donned aprons emblazoned with the slogan, “Keeping it Together,” and collectively performed the mitzvah of challah. The Great Challah Bake of the Five Towns drew more than 1,200 women to the Sands Atlantic Beach to share challah, camaraderie, and conversation.
Upon arrival, the women were divided into groups of 12 and directed to beautifully set tables with individual, premeasured ingredients at each place. After an introduction by event organizer Rabbi Yaakov Trump of Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst, challah demonstrators Malky Feldman and Judy Rubin took to the podium. Instructing 1,200 women on the step-by-step process of mixing, kneading, and braiding was quite a chore, but these ladies were up to the task. In short order, the room was buzzing as hundreds of flour-streaked hands pounded down the dough. Feldman and Rubin made the berachah and the crowd thundered “Amen.” While the dough rose, singer Eitan Katz provided a musical interlude and the women spontaneously broke into song and dance.
“This event was a piece of OlamHa’ba,” said Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller.
The air was charged with excitement as orthodox and unaffiliated women joined hands and swayed to the music. Back at the tables, the braiding began—some used three strands, some did four, and some tried their hands at the more intricate six-strand braid. Seasoned bakers leaned over to help first-timers as the dough was formed into traditional challahs.
“I was moved to tears at the sight of 1,000 women dancing, singing, and baking challah together. I couldn’t help but wish that my mother-in-law, who was a Holocaust survivor, could have been there with me. I know she would have been as awestruck as I was, rejoicing in the knowledge that all the beautiful women celebrating this special mitzvah were living proof that the sick and twisted efforts to eradicate the Jews failed miserably,” said Teri Gatti Schure.
According to Adina Fischlewitz, the challah-bake coordinator, the event drew numerous groups of unaffiliated women recruited by outreach groups including Emet, Ezra Academy, JWRP, Project Inspire, and Chabad. More than 100 volunteers and 80 local high school girls worked the event.
They didn’t have shopping bags or lattes to carry home as a memento of their girls-night-out. What the challah bakers did have was dough-filled aluminum pans in their hands and huge smiles on their faces. The inaugural Five Towns Challah Bake was an evening that will be remembered for a long time to come.