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Challah bake connects O.C. with world-wide event

Around 1,600 pairs of hands were put to good use Thursday night for cracking eggs, mixing flour and kneading dough.

The OC Mega Challah Bake, held at the Misty May-Treanor Sports Center in Irvine, drew hundreds of Jewish women from Yorba Linda, San Clemente and everywhere in between, event organizers said.

Rows of tables filled the gymnasium’s court, bowls were lined up and pink aprons folded atop every chair. The bowls held containers and plastic bags with all the key ingredients to make Challah: flour, oil, water, sugar, salt, yeast and one egg.

These special loaves of braided bread are served at the Shabbat, the weekly Jewish Sabbath that is celebrated from sundown on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. Traditionally, it is the role of women to bake this bread, attendees said.

“My mom has made this at home and I usually just watch,” 13-year-old Elisa Costa from Rancho Santa Margarita said. “But tonight, I get the chance to do it. And it’s way different having all these other people here to do it with me.”

The event was held in alignment with The Shabbos Project, an initiative encouraging communities worldwide to experience this week’s Shabbat together.

As the OC Mega Challah Bake committee stressed to its guests Thursday evening, women in different corners of the world, even the streets of Jerusalem, were making Challah on the same day they were.

In 2013, Chief Rabbi of South Africa Warren Goldstein launched the Shabbos Project. A year later, the initiative expanded to 212 cities in 33 countries.

“This is all about connection,” the event’s head organizer Shana Segall said. “I think of it as a special vacation, not a place for your phone or any kind of distraction.”

Segall along with a group of women from numerous congregations across the county spent around six months planning the mass baking event in Irvine.

While this planning committee got the word out on their Challah bake through several Jewish media outlets, they credited the colossal crowd to a simple method — word of mouth through all of Orange County’s congregations.

The first OC Mega Challah Bake was held last year at the Jewish Federation and Family Services location in Irvine. The bake hosted around 800 women that year.

Event guest Natalie Ciner, who is also married to Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of the Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine, returned to this year’s Challah bake after attending the inaugural baking.

“How can you not want to come back and be a part of something like this?” Ciner said. “This is bringing all Jewish women of Orange County together and we doubled our number of guests since last year.”

From young girls to grandmothers, the bakers took home the dough they had kneaded and braided. The families baked the bread at home and ate the Challah on Friday evening for Shabbat.


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