Chabad Lubavitch of Stamford is dedicated to providing a full spectrum of programming catering to men, women, couples, families and children, giving each a taste of an authentic, warm Jewish experience in the Stamford area. Back in 2009 Chabad of Stamford hosted its first challah bake. At the event each woman prepared two loaves of challah, one to keep and the other for someone else to benefit from. “With over 200 women participating, we were able to impact the shabbat for over 400 families!” exclaimed Leah Shemtov of Chabad of Stamford. Shemtov explained how the concepts and message behind the original Stamford challah bake inspired the originators of the now famous Mega Challah Bake as part of the Shabbos Project.
Seeing the impact of the 2009 challah bake, Shemtov was inspired by the involvement and dedication of the women of Stamford and created the Loaves of Love program as a way to continuously give out challah to enhance people’s Shabbat. “Three to four times a year women from Stamford gather at Chabad of Stamford’s kitchen. Their facility is equipped with a commercial kitchen, where the women bake challahs and make chicken soup,” described Shemtov. “Chabad provides the ingredients and equipment, the women volunteer their time.” Everyone can help out from shopping, cooking, ordering, delivering or donating financially towards a meal.
“I want each participant to feel the energy of being in a room with hundreds of other Jewish women, I want them to feel that they can bake challah at home, take away the fear of the unknown and doing something new,” Shemtov continued. “I want the participants to feel connected to our Imahot, our foremothers, and Jewish women around the world who also do this very special mitzvah that is one of the three special mitzvot entrusted to women.”
The Loaves of Love program is available to anyone who needs it: new moms, new in town or just moved to a new home, sick, homebound or senior citizen, a shiva house, or just anyone who needs a ‘taste of Shabbat.’ The packages consist of chicken soup, candy, grape juice, Shabbat candles and challah. Shemtov explained, “We just keep trying to reach more and more families each week.”
“I hope the recipients feel an extra dose of love that they are not alone, and someone has thought of them. I want them to experience a taste of Shabbat. Even if they had not planned to celebrate Shabbat, a bag with fresh challah, homemade soup, candles, grape juice and other treats will encourage them to celebrate Shabbat on some level or even enhance their Shabbat observance,” added Shemtov.
She noted that not only do participants and recipients benefit from this program, but the program also enriches the entire Stamford community. “We have volunteers that come each week to deliver the packages and be a smiling face to the recipients. They share how it gives them a sense of purpose and pride to be able to do this. We have people who ask when we are baking so they can come and help and feel like they can give.”
“Many recipients don’t even know who contacted us on their behalf. People reach out to us to recommend someone who had a baby, is having a rough time, lost a loved one, or moved, to receive a package,” said Shemtov. “Both recipients and those who call to sponsor a package for someone else are simply passing on the chain of goodness.”
As an offshoot of the Loaves of Love program, Chabad of Stamford also developed the Challah Dough For a Cause program. Members of the Stamford community can pick up fresh Challah dough to shape, bake and fill their home with the smell and taste of Shabbat. Each bag of dough will make two challahs, and the proceeds will benefit the Loaves of Love project.
This year, Chabad of Stamford is planning a family challah bake, where men, women and children can come together to make challah to enhance both their Shabbat and the Shabbat of others. The event will take place on a Sunday and will accommodate the needs of everyone in the family.
For additional information on Chabad Lubavitch of Stamford and the Loaves of Love program please see their website at www.chabadstamford.org.
By Judy Berger