By Dvora Schulman
Jewish history was made in the greater metro Detroit community on Thursday evening, July 31st (4th Av) in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
For the first time ever women, ages ten to eighty five, from all walks of Jewish life joined forces and created challah and unity during a time of worldwide turmoil. One-hundred forty Jewish women gathered for Operation Challah in memory of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach to bake challah for Shabbos.
Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and friends of diverse backgrounds from the Detroit metropolitan area joined forces to reach across the globe to our brothers and sisters in eretz Yisroel and transform the mundane to the holy through the mitzvah of challah.
The event was organized by Aviva Gordon, leader of the Detroit Area Shidduch Group/Mazel Tov Connection, to bring Jewish women together to remember our boys, create unity and light, and bring down blessings. All net proceeds will be sent directly to the Fraenkel, Shaer and Yifrach families.
The Secret Ingredients of Challah Baking program, developed by Mrs. Janet Chana Esses of Brooklyn, NY, includes blessings and insights associated with each step and ingredient. These blessings strengthen the qualities needed by women to nurture and nourish themselves, their loved ones and their communities.
The evening began with Tehillim and a Prayer for our Soldiers followed by challah preparation, and the mitzvah of l’hafrish challah – separating challah. The step-by-step hands-on challah experience connected each step and ingredient with a blessing. Huddled around mixing bowls, the women mixed and kneaded with their hands and turned hearts and souls inward as they recited the blessings for unity, happiness, protection, health, success, wisdom and removal of negative influences upon themselves and one another.
While the dough was rising, Zeesy Silberberg spoke to the room full of women wearing Operation Challah aprons dusted with flour. She asked the women to envision the effect of every Jewish home baking challah for Shabbat. To imagine in every neighborhood the smell of baking challah wafting through windows, doorways and crevices and the neighbors would know that Shabbat is coming because the Jewish women are making challah.
At a Chassidic farbrengen once, the Lubavitcher Rebbe shared, “If we only knew what is accomplished when a Jew pushes out just one negative thought from his mind . . . the entire world is affected!” When the Rebbe talked about the “entire world” being affected, he made a 360-degree turn with his hand.
“If this is what happens with THOUGHTS, imagine what our ACTIONS create,” she said. “Our positive thoughts and acts create a whole palette of spiritual scents to influence and inspire the world.”
While the mitzvah of challah is open to anyone to perform, she shared that it is specifically given to women. “Women do this mitzvah with all the proper intentions because it is in our nature, in our personal DNA to constantly give from what we have. We are the nurturers, the givers of society.”
The women than recited the blessing of l’hafrish challah and everyone was invited to partake of the Light up the World Shabbat candle lighting kits. Not a one remained.
The raffle prize was awarded and challah braiding began. Thanks to Nehama Abraham, video demonstrations played on the large screens showcasing the boys and step-by-step instructions of the practical and spiritual components of challah making. Hostesses were available for hands-on assistance.
With elevated hearts and spirits, each woman carried home a ready-to-bake challah for Shabbat. Heartfelt thanks are extended to the many volunteers and sponsors, including the Detroit Jewish News, who made Operation Challah a great success.