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Corps of hallah bakers knead and braid
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Corps of hallah bakers knead and braid

Loren Levy — a Partnership “family connector” — mixes it up with her daughter Liana at the Cooperman JCC in West Orange.
Loren Levy — a Partnership “family connector” — mixes it up with her daughter Liana at the Cooperman JCC in West Orange.

As part of the international initiative “The Shabbos Project,” on Oct. 22, a corps of women and children rolled up their sleeves to make hallah for Shabbat — about 165 at JCC MetroWest’s Cooperman JCC in West Orange and 60 at the JCC of Central NJ in Scotch Plains.

The events were initiated, coordinated, and carried out by Taryn Berelowitz of Livingston, with organizational backing from The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life — the identify-building division of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ — and the support of a committee of volunteers that included staffers from the two JCCs, Chabad of Union County in Fanwood, and Ahavath Torah-Chabad at Short Hills

At the Cooperman JCC, participants went to stations set up in advance with premeasured ingredients. Amy Dorsch, the Partnership’s director of empowerment of families with school-aged children, introduced the event as an idea that, she said, “became a reality due to the power and motivation of volunteers.” 

Step-by-step hallah-making instructions were given by Toba Grossbaum of The Friendship Circle. While participants kneaded and braided the dough, they had a chance to greet via Skype Jewish community members in Cherkassy, Ukraine, who were also making hallah as part of the Shabbos Project. Participants were provided with the blessing and explanation for “separating hallah,” a print-out with “frequently asked questions” about Shabbat and the answers in frames on each table, and a display of books with ideas and information on creating family Shabbat experiences.

In Scotch Plains, the program was facilitated by Malky Blesofsky of Chabad of Union County with the support of Randi Zucker, the Central JCC’s director of Jewish experiences. Blesofsky provided step-by-step instructions and, while the dough was rising, led a discussion on the beauty and meaning behind making hallah. 

Both afternoon events included youngsters making hallah alongside their mothers. Participants in West Orange included sixth-graders from Congregation B’nai Israel of Millburn, led by school director Rabbi Sharon Litwin, and their parent chaperones. 

Each participant was given “Shabbat-in-a-bag,” a kit that included a printed apron, grape juice, candles, a hallah recipe, ideas for Shabbat table talk, and a printout of the Friday evening Shabbat rituals.

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