If ever you needed a concrete, easy to point to example of just how powerful normal Jewish moms can be—The Kids Mega Challah Bake in NYC can be exactly that.
The event was created to celebrate the idea of Jewish unity in general. No affiliation was necessary or even encouraged, the evening of from-scratch challah baking for kids and their parents was solely about uniting the Jewish children of New York for a few hours they would remember forever.
Pulling off an event that catered to 1,128 kids and 319 adults was no easy task, so the group of 11 energetic moms called in every favor and used every skill that came naturally to them.
“There is nothing like having an awesome group of dedicated young women who took their time to volunteer and share the beauty of challah making with so many others,” shared Mushka Zaklos, one of the event organizers. She is one of fifteen children herself, and now a mother to four little girls— mobilizing the challah ‘troops’ of volunteers came naturally to her. “Their enthusiasm and warmth were inspiring!”
The unity building didn’t just magically end up at the tables of children sifting, kneading, and braiding, though. The moms themselves came from every level and style across the Jewish spectrum and banded together instantly just for the sake of friendship, love, and teamwork. In a day and age when moms hardly have enough time to breathe, that may have been the biggest miracle of all.
“From the start it was our idea to have all the challah making instructions on a video. We thought it would be more fun and engaging for the kids,” explained Laura Josepher, a showbiz veteran and #KidsChallah committee mom with two little girls in NYC public school. “We worked with a video production company to develop a script and it was shot and edited in L.A. It was important that the making of the dough took the same amount of time onscreen as it would in the venue, and that all the instructions were clear.”
The list of moms contributing to the overall unity-through-challah cause is about a mile long and written with colorful ink. To organize an event for over 1,000 children is no small task for any cause, especially the mitzvah of making challah. And imagine all the Jewish moms with thoughts, opinions, and fears? Oy. That was exactly where the always calm and collected Frumie Weitman of the Jewish Latin Center played an enormous role. The Manhattan mom managed to rally literal, physical troops to protect and secure the entire event from top to bottom. She arranged dozens of professional security guards through CSS, the Community Security Service, tasked with protecting the children and their families. Metal detectors were set in place, bomb-sniffing dogs, a nearly endless sea of top-notch men that looked like they were straight out of a heroic movie, and dozens more NYPD to match.
Other moms, like Sarah Alevsky, were so dedicated to the cause that they helped with every single detail of the event from start to finish. Alevsky brought her husband, Chayim Boruch Alevsky to treat the children to live music as they finished their challah making and started to make a safe, swift exit from the New York Hilton. Sarah’s own daughter, who was several months pregnant as the event was happening, helped set the tables, organize registration, and bring calm to the chaos of scores of volunteer women trying to make the event nothing short of an utter inspiration to Jewish communities around the city.
Institutions and brands quickly saw how unified the group of moms were in the weeks leading up to the record-breaking bake. The UJA of New York was eager to sign on as an official sponsor, lending both their financial support and the credibility of their name. The JCC of Manhattan also contributed to the event and promoted it among their members, as well as several synagogues of all affiliations. It was truly remarkable to see that brands not reserved exclusively for the Jewish community were also excited to get involved. Hellmann’s was one such brand, noting that mayo doesn’t necessary go in challah, but it’s a frequent player at the Shabbat table and there is nothing more important to their brand than building positive community experiences.
International brands with Jewish heritage stories like AHAVA also played a major role. “We know AHAVA is a favorite for Jewish moms, and we want to support the community that shares so much love with us,” said social media manager, Mimi Banks. “AHAVA means ‘love’ in Hebrew, and we can’t think of a more loving event than teaching children the meaning of unity.”
Sheva Spa, based in the Tel Aviv Hilton, recently opened a location in Midtown Manhattan and jumped on the sponsorship train as soon as they heard about the event. The marketing manager, Hana Rukaj, isn’t Jewish but immediately recognized the importance of such a historic event. “I’ve always loved and been a part of the Jewish community and now the brand I’m working for is a Jewish heritage brand… what could make more sense than us contributing to this beautiful event?”
What’s next for the Challah Dream Team? The ladies aren’t sure yet, but they know that there will be another effort to share unity through a beautiful mitzvah in the coming months.