Shabbat tables across Stamford were a bit more festive recently after dozens of children, teens and parents took part in two recent challah bakes offered by the Friendship Circle of Fairfield County.
The events were sponsored by local residents and FC supporters Rhonda Maron and Marlene Gatz.
“Everyone loves the smell and taste of fresh-baked bread,” said Malya Shmotkin, the director of the Friendship Circle, “and what better way to celebrate Shabbat than with a fresh, homemade challah made together with other Friendship Circle participants and friends.”
Among those who took part in the baking fun for families was Stacey Palker, and her 6-year-old son, Aaron. They were joined by Friendship Circle volunteer Esther Leah Lipsker.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to bake challah with my son and a chance to spend time with other families with special needs,” recalled Palker. “Aaron loved decorating the challah. He loaded it up with cinnamon and sugar, and stuffed it with chocolate chips.”
In addition to challah baking, with step-by-step instructions led by Shmotkin, each kid made his or her own chef’s hat and apron. The budding bakers also received their own FC measuring spoons, a brochure about challah and recipe cards so they could continue to bake the special Shabbat bread on their own.
At the volunteers’ event for teens and their moms, a number of different braiding techniques were displayed and the teens were able to pick from a variety of toppings including onion and cinnamon sugar. The class was taught by Leah Shemtov, co-director of Chabad of Stamford, who relayed how the mitzvah of challah is unique, as it turns something mundane, like bread, into something holy.
She also explained that as one makes challah, it is a special time to speak with God and make special requests like asking for a refuah, “a healing” for those who are sick. The teens were asked to think of someone who might need a helping hand and to pray for them as they made their bread.
All the participants received instructions on how to bake the challah at home, to enhance their Shabbat. As Palker recounted, “Aaron was so proud of the challah. It was a huge hit on Shabbat!”
By Faygie Holt