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Great Big Challah Bake Unites Women Worldwide

In a world that is more and more divided, The Great Big Challah Bake is bringing us together, one challah at a time. Another alarming reality is that many Jews are drifting away from their heritage, and nothing brings us back to our roots and unites us like this aromatic braided bread made lovingly by hand from the most basic ingredients, mainly flour, water, yeast, egg, sugar, salt. Every single week, in preparation for the Sabbath, this ordinary or mundane act of making bread is elevated and becomes holy and even magical,  as hundreds of women in the same room (and thousands across the globe) come together for the same mission. Last year, more than 500 women and girls, representing the entire spectrum of the St. Louis Jewish community and all levels of observance, bonded together to share their love of making challah. This year’s third annual event, October 26 at the JCC in Creve Coeur, will be bigger and better than ever.

Participants having fun at Great Big Challah Bake 2016.

On a much larger scale, The Great Big Challah Bake has given new meaning to #FlourPower, one of the many hashtags that captures the essence of this growing worldwide movement to renew ourselves spiritually, physically and emotionally. Held on the Thursday night before the The Shabbos Project weekend, over 200,000 women and girls, in more than 150 countries, and more than 1,000 communities (including places as diverse as Mumbai; Kiev; Dalat, Vietnam; Recife, Brazil; and even Mount Kilimanjaro), gather together to share in the age-old tradition of making challah bread for Shabbat. Last year, more than 250 communities in the United States alone organized challah bakes for women and girls of all ages.

Beautiful tables set for hundreds of challah makers in St. Louis.

Women and girls making challah from around the world.

As the sun sets on October 26 this year, women in Australia will kick off the event. It will then move westward across the globe, through Asia, Israel, Africa, Europe, and North and South Americas, uniting women in the shared experience of Jewish heritage, motherhood and sisterhood, linking everyone, including our own St. Louis community, with the rest of the worldwide Challah Bake participants.

So how did it all get started? The Great Big Challah Bake is part a global grassroots initiative born in South Africa in 2012. The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, introduced the idea of the entire South African Jewish community all observing one specific Shabbat out of the year. From that small idea, the Shabbat Project has exploded around the world, with over one million people participating last year, uniting the Jewish people as never before.

St. Louis is connected to this worldwide event in a very personal way: René Price, a long-time resident of University City, is the aunt of Rabbi Goldstein. She brought the Challah Bake to St. Louis in 2013, and the rest is history.

Every participant receives a laminated placemat printed with several challah recipes and the religious guidelines for making challah, as well as a custom apron, a mixing bowl with all necessary ingredients, and a swag bag to carry everything home. Even gluten-free ingredients will be provided by request.

As the dough rises, so does the energy in the room as people sing, dance, and share the joy of the moment and being Jewish. The Great Big Challah Bake is just the beginning of a very special weekend in St. Louis, followed by the first ever ““Shabbos in Jerusalem Feeling..right in the heart of St. Louis!”  We don’t have to travel a thousand miles to Israel to experience a true authentic Shabbos that allows us to focus on ourselves for 25 hours, without any outside distractions of work, computer, phone, or TV. On Friday and Saturday, Oct 27-28, at the home of Zipporah Yari  of University City, Jewish women, men and children of all ages and levels of observance are invited to experience the ambiance and transcendence of an authentic Shabbos that goes way beyond the Great Big Challah Bake.

“There’s nothing like the beauty and experience of Shabbos in Yerushalayim, but in the meanwhile you can experience the serenity of Shabbos in your home city,” said Zipporah Yari, who will host the festivities, including a delicious Friday evening dinner, Shabbos morning brunch, Shabbos lunch, and a light dinner on Shabbos afternoon complete with a medley of delectable fruits and salads. So, our bellies will be full and so will our souls with prayers, candle lighting, activities, singing, dancing, schmoozing, relaxing, and inspiring group discussions in a warm friendly atmosphere. The weekend begins on Friday with a welcome reception at the Yari home, 8160 Balson Avenue, from 3:30-5:00pm, and ends on Saturday evening with a Havdalah ceremony. The Shabbos experience includes all meals (and the delicious food never stops coming). A contribution of $18 is suggested.

This is our time to unplug from the busy workweek and recharge among friends with authentic Jewish observances and traditions of Shabbat!

Whether you participate in the Great Big Challah Bake, the Global Shabbos Project, and/or the extended “Shabbos in Jerusalem Feeling..right here in St. Louis!” we look forward to sharing the magic of Shabbat with you!

If you would like to contribute toward this special Shabbos, optional donation is $18.00 per person.

For more info, on the challah back go to ChallahBakeSTL.com and on the global event at  TheShabbatProject.org.

Wait until you see Zipporah’s masterpiece on display at the Great Big Challah Bake!

Zipporah and friends invite you to feel “Shabbos in Jerusalem…in the heart of U City”

Join us for Shabbat experience like never before!

Check out this video about The Shabbos Project that started it all!