There was high energy among members of the sell-out crowd at the first-ever Mega Challah Bake at the Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford.
More than 250 women and girls gathered at the First Mega Challah Bake of Greater Hartford organized by Chabad of Greater Hartford. Participants from all across the Greater Hartford area packed the hall at the Emanuel Synagogue on Sunday, Feb. 21, to learn the traditions of making challah.
It was a fun, inspiring afternoon with great feminine energy. The ambiance in the room was superb, an exquisite Shabbat table was set, large balloon bouquets lined the room and tables stood ready with all the ingredients necessary for the challah dough.
Early arrivals read beautiful tributes of great women, written by attendees of the bake. Others sampled the many different flavors and shapes of challah laid on an abundant buffet. There were challahs shaped like birds, ladders, a key, whole wheat challah, tri-colored challah, gluten free challah and more.
“If our Matriarch Sarah would walk into this room, she might be puzzled by the large screens and the cell phones found at every seat, but then she would look around and see the dough and the same blessing being recited for thousands of years, perhaps she would break into a big smile and feel right at home,” were the opening words of Shayna Gopin, organizer of the event.
“This event is even more special as it is in the year of Hakhel, gathering. During temple times, every 7 years, Jews of all ages and stages in life would gather at the temple for a tremendous display of Jewish pride and unity. This is a year to gather and reaffirm our Jewish values,” Gopin said.
Lisa Berman, co-chair of the event, reflected on her involvement in the program, sharing memories of the special women in her life, her mother and grandmother.
Then it was action time! Water, sugar yeast, eggs, salt and oil went into the bowl. Participants were guided step by step, with a live demo on stage by expert challah maker Bracha Kosofsky that was also projected on three screens around the room. Then, the flour was added and everyone busied themselves with kneading to make the delicious dough.
“After we make the dough, we take off a piece to acknowledge that everything we are fortunate to have and be able to give to others, is a blessing from G-d,” said Mrs. Miriam Gopin, one of the organizers at Chabad of Greater Hartford. She also spoke about two other “Mitzvahs” –commandments – that are special to women: family purity and lighting the Shabbat candles, and the power and influence a woman brings to her home.
Melissa Weinstock and her daughter Sylvie united the room together in a meaningful moment, taking challah and reciting the blessing. “While reciting the blessing a woman has a “direct channel” to G-d and it’s an opportune time to ask for all that is on her heart and mind,” said Weinstock.
At this auspicious time, many people recited names of those who they know who need a blessing in their life, health, happiness, children and more.
As the dough rose, participants were treated to a captivating performance by singer Dasi Sessel. With her well-trained voice, Sessel sang traditional and original songs.
Women finished off with braiding their now risen dough, learning new braids and shapes from challah experts circulating the room. The challahs were painted with egg wash and participants chose toppings from a wide selection. Women left the program, dancing, uplifted and united.
To learn more visit www.MegaChallahBakeCT.com or call 860-232-1116.