Updated as of March 28, 2022 at 9:57 p.m. to include additional video.
Mixing in the yeast, salt and flour; kneading the dough until it’s ready to be braided; talking and laughing with their peers — that was how a group of Elon women spent their Sunday afternoon.
Chabad Elon and Panhellenic Association teamed up to put on the Mega Challah Bake on March 27. Female students, mostly Jewish and in sororities, made Challah — a bread eaten often in Jewish culture. At the Mega Challah Bake, the women made two loaves of bread up until the dough was braided and brushed with egg wash. Then, they got to take their loaves home to properly bake.
Rabbi Mendy Minkowitz said that Challah was the focus of this event because it is a customary food that has brought Jewish communities together for generations.
“There was no communication between Jewish communities in North Africa and Arab countries and Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and Russia and Slavic countries,” Mendy said. “Yet, you found this staple existing in both and beyond many communities in all communities. Challah’s kind of this link to tradition that was unbroken.”
Femininity is tightly tied with the baked good, since Challah has been baked by women since the first Jewish woman — matriarch Sarah, according to Mendy.
“Its hallmark is the contribution of womanhood and Jewish women who turned what are otherwise raw ingredients, by adding their warmth, into Challah,” Mendy said.
Continuing to bring womanhood into baking Challah, Chabad reached out to sororities in order to gather Jewish women together and slow down for just one day. Chabad ambassador and Elon senior Lauren Weinberg said she enjoyed gathering and teaching women to bake Challah — especially the ones who have never baked it before.
“Elon is a really Jewish school; there's a lot of Jewish kids, so it was really fun to go into each sorority and find every Jewish girl to come together and make Challah because it's a really big, traditional thing to do in the Jewish community,” Weinberg said. “I love that Chabad was able to give the place for all these girls to come together and have fun.”
In her speech before the Challah baking process, Rivka Minkowitz, co-director of Chabad, talked about how there is a “Jewish Revolution” brewing among Jewish women. She stressed the importance of coming together as a Jewish female community, which is what she said this event accomplished.
“Jewish women have so much power and all we gotta do is take that power that we have and act upon it and do goodness in this world,” Rivka said.
The Mega Challah Bake was positively received — as over 120 women were in attendance and Rivka said the energy in the room was high. Jewish Elon senior, Devon Margulies, is in Alpha Omicron Pi, and said she thoroughly enjoyed her time at the event.
“I liked that we were making Challah rather than, like, banana bread because any organization or community can do that,” Margulies said. “This was kind of something that related us back to why we're at the event in the first place.”
Mendy said he hopes this event will continue in the future, possibly annually.
“I think this event was above and beyond anything we imagined. Girls just showed up in droves. They were excited and passionate,” Mendy said. “They loved it, but we're just getting our feet wet. This is just the beginning and we're far from done.”