Pink challah?
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Pink challah?

Jewish women, 12 and older, invited to Passaic to learn preparation and support Sharsheret in its fight against women’s cancers

Participants in the 2017 Jewish Journeys Great Pink Challah Bake. (Debbie Rosalimsky)
Participants in the 2017 Jewish Journeys Great Pink Challah Bake. (Debbie Rosalimsky)

Whether kneading and braiding Sabbath challah bread is part of your weekly routine or whether you’ve never punched down a bowlful of yeast dough in your life, if you are female, Jewish, and 12 years old or older, you can take part in the Jewish Journeys Great Pink Challah Bake on October 25 at Factory 220 in Passaic.

During the week of October 22, about a million Jewish women are expected to join in challah-baking events in conjunction with the worldwide Shabbat Project. In fact, Valley Chabad also offers a bake that day. (See box.)

As it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Jewish Journeys challah bake has a pink theme and is being held in partnership with Sharsheret — a Teaneck-based national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of Jewish women and families facing breast and ovarian cancer — and Myriad Women’s Health of Myriad Genetics, which will offer educational resources to participants.

Screening services will be available at the beginning of the evening for women who wish to know if they carry the BRCA gene, which increases the lifetime risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer up to 84 percent. Women and men of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage have a 1 in 40 chance of being BRCA-positive.

“This year, because of our partnership with Sharsheret and Myriad Women’s Health, I’m referring to it as a challah bake for the body and the soul,” said Debbie Rosalimsky of Teaneck, who is chairing the bake. “Raising awareness to women’s health is critical.”

One of the Great Pink Challah Bake’s goals is to introduce the community to Jewish Journeys, a grassroots organization whose mission is to strengthen the Jewish home. Under the umbrella of Jinspire Bergen, Jewish Journeys leads a subsidized Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip to Israel for Jewish mothers from Bergen County with limited Jewish background and children under 18. Follow-up programming at home includes classes, challah bakes, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, chesed programs, and social activities.

Ms. Rosalimsky said the bake also aims “to share the beauty and mitzvah behind challah-making as well as the how-tos so that perhaps the women will leave feeling inspired and comfortable to make it at home. Just as important, we want to gather women of different ages and Jewish backgrounds for an evening of unity, fun, dancing, and connecting.”

Since 2014, the annual challah bake has attracted many participants from across the Jewish spectrum in Northern Jersey.

In fact, last year the organizers decided to set a limit of 800 women — all pre-registered, no walk-ins allowed — because the bake had grown too large to handle — sort of like when bread dough rises out of control.

All the necessary challah-making implements and ingredients are in place for the Great Pink Bake.

Sharsheret’s senior adviser Shera Dubitsky (described as “fabulous and funny” by Ms. Rosalimsky) will be the evening’s emcee. Devorah Kigel, a dating and marriage coach and public speaker from Passaic, will give a live challah-making demo. There will be dancing while the challah rises, followed by a braiding demonstration by Ms. Rosalimsky and finally a raffle and silent auction.

Participants arriving at their assigned workstations will find an apron, a bowl with pre-sorted ingredients, a laminated placemat complete with challah recipes, challah-making instructions, an explanation of the spiritual meanings behind each ingredient, and instructions for separating a small piece of dough symbolic of the biblical challah offering.

“Water is the only ingredient the women will have to measure,” Ms. Rosalimsky said.

“It takes a village to organize an event like this,” she added. “Along with adult volunteers who have graciously offered their time, we are very grateful to some of the local Jewish day school students who will be helping sort the ingredients and set up the venue.”

Corporate sponsors provided monetary donations or offered services and supplies for free or at cost.

“A big thank-you goes to Factory 220, which is hosting the Challah Bake free of charge for the third year in a row, BML-Blackbird of Secaucus, Inflated Creations of Passaic, and an anonymous donor providing the challah ingredients,” Ms. Rosalimsky said. Other business sponsors include A&E Fine Art, Berkshire Bank, Myriad Women’s Health, Northeast Private Client Group, North Jersey Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, and Sari’s Wigs.

Ms. Rosalimsky said that she only started baking challah five years ago, after attending a similar event in New York City, and since has “become a totally passionate challah baker/teacher/mentor” who films challah-braiding videos for groups and bakes holiday-themed breads — a Purim loaf in the shape of a large hamantash and a Chanukah challah that looks like a menorah.

Teal and Pink Shabbat, the name Sharsheret has trademarked for its annual national community-based initiative to educate Jews about ovarian (teal) and breast (pink) cancer, will be marked by many events in October and November.

Locally, in addition to the Great Pink Challah Bake, Sharsheret Teal/Pink Shabbat events are planned in Fair Lawn at Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel on October 13 and at Congregation Ahavat Achim on October 27. Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck will host an event on November 17.

On October 14, the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly will hold an outdoor workout; donations for Sharsheret will be collected there, and information and goody bags will be handed out. Women of Reform Judaism will run a community service project and Pink Dinner for Sharsheret during its Atlantic District Convention at the Clinton Inn in Tenafly on October 18 to 21, and a Pink Challah Bake will be hosted in a private Tenafly home on October 28.

Ridgewood’s Alex and Ani jewelry store will donate 15 percent of proceeds from sales on October 28 to Sharsheret, and Unilever in Englewood will host a Sharsheret Lunch and Learn program on October 30.


What: Jewish Journeys Great Pink Challah Bake

When: Thursday, October 25, 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6 p.m.)

Where: Factory 220, 220 Passaic St., Passaic

Who: Women and girls 12 and older

How much: $36

Pre-registration is required. Email jjgreatpinkchallahbake@gmail.com or go to the calendar on the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s website, www.jfnnj.org. BRCA screening and testing by a local provider will be available before the event. If you are interested in being screened/tested, come at 6 and bring your insurance card.


What: Valley Chabad Mega Challah Bake

When: Thursday, October 25, 7 p.m. 

Where: Hilton Woodcliff Lake, 200 Tice Boulevard, Woodcliff Lake

How Much: $45

Pre-registration is required. Email ValleyChabad.org. 

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