Women from across Orange County gathered for a unique evening baking challah dough from scratch and celebrating Jewish tradition at the Rushmore Estate Ballroom.
The “Mega Challah Bake,” hosted by Chabad of Orange County led by Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston, attracted more than 150 women of different ages, backgrounds and levels of observance.
Participants enjoyed an elegant evening of music, entertainment, baking and dancing. “The Mega Challah Bake was an authentic display of community unity and connection with so many people contributing to make this event special,” said Chana Burston, who led the event.
“Jewish traditions are what keep our hearts, our souls and our people alive and thriving,” Chana said. “As women, we are the powerhouse of our home – we have the unique ability to spread the warmth and beauty of Jewish tradition to our families.”
Each attendee received a “Mega Challah Bake” apron, tote bag, dough mat and pr- measured ingredients. As the dough process began, Burston said the spiritual significance of the challah ingredients.
“The challah recipe is a recipe for life – a rich spiritual experience that brings blessings to our home and loved ones," she said. "As the dough rises, we too rise along with It with renewed faith and confidence in our connection to G-d.”
With arms around one another like sisters, the words of “Hiney mah tov umah nayim” - ("how pleasant is it that we sit together united as one") reverberated throughout the ballroom.
Chana said the important tradition of making a blessing and separating a portion of dough. Using a sensory journey experience, Burston led a challah meditation, Phyllis Goetz of Monroe recited a psalm, and Anita Reich of Harriman, accompanied by her grandchildren, recited the blessing on separating a piece of dough from the challah.
Once the dough was ready, braiding techniques were taught and demonstrated by the "Challah Mavens (experts)" Miriam Schechter and Simmie Gellman.
“I had a fantastic evening,” says Hanna Schindler of Monroe, who experienced making Challah for the first time. “So great to be with friends and family sharing this beautiful tradition!”
Participants enjoyed kosher wines, a salad bar, a variety of challahs and desserts.
The community effort invested in the event was tremendous. Table leaders included Anita Reich of Harriman, Stacey Finkelstein of Middletown, Mindy Hazzard of Goshen, Jodi Cohen of Highland Mills, Erica Fried of Monroe, Lee Loftus of Goshen, Marina Deskin of Monroe, Bracha Pincus of Chester, Corbett Hoffman of Goshen, Yasmine Kalkstein of Monroe, Suzanne Berkowitz of Warwick and Sherri Eccleston of Johnson.
Preparation prior to the event included committee members Michelle Sentell of Monroe, Karen Kanis of Monroe, Sheryl Kewerski of Goshen, Phyllis Goetz of Monroe, Elisa Fertig ofChester, Becky Benezra of Monroe, and Dianne Levine and Betty Grossman, both of Port Jervis.
Table dedications were generously sponsored by Michelle Sentell of Monroe, who dedicated her table to “all the great women she has met at Chabad.”
Addition sponsors and raffle donors include Sherri Eccelston of Sherri’s Heirloom Soaps, Bracha Pincus of Chester, Anita Reich of Monroe, Stacey Finkelstein of Middletown and Yossi & Menucha Burston of Los Angeles. The ballroom was set up beautifully by Marina and Lizzie Deskin of Monroe, Toby and Zlaty Greenberg of Monroe, Hillary Cohen of Middletown, Ira and Karen Kanis of Monroe, Bari and Kaylee Rosenholtz, Bella Hauck of Middletown, Dianna Levine of Port Jervis, Elisa Fertig of Chester, Sherri Eccelston of Johnson, Yasmine Kalkstein of Monroe, Rivkah Burston of Monroe and The Schwartz family of Monroe.
Chabad’s upcoming Jewish Women’s Circle event will be a creative night out at “Board & Brush Studio” on Dec. 5 in Warwick, designing a custom wooden sign in honor of Chanukah or any occasion. For more information, log onto ChabadOrange.com or call Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston at 845-782-2770.