It was a hectic day at the community challah bake at the Chabad of Phoenix. 

More than 250 children and parents attended the Friendship Circle of Arizona’s fourth annual Mega Challah Bake on Sunday, Aug. 18. However, this year’s community bake added an extra recipe for attending families. 

“Once we announced we were also making babka, registration just shot through the roof,” Friendship Circle Program Director Leah Levertov said. “I think that once kids find out that there’s going to be chocolate in anything, they get more excited.”

Families from all over Phoenix came to the Mega Babka-llah Bake to learn how to make dough for both bread and cake batter. After the aprons, gloves, mixing equipment and ingredients were provided, everyone quickly got to work. 

Although many messes were made as the mixing process began, everyone created braided challah dough and a babka batter to take home. While their creations couldn’t be baked at the center, they could be used for Shabbat or even the High Holidays if left in the freezer. 

Friendship Circle Director Rabbi Mendy Levertov said that this event was a great way to kick off the Rosh Hashanah season. “Food always unites people and this is a great way to bring people together, and this is probably the best challah recipe for this big of an event.” The mega bake was open to all families and children across the Valley. 

For some families, the Friendship Circle’s challah bake has become an annual tradition. This was the third year for Lisa Segal and her children, Oliver and Chloe. The two children loved having the opportunity and space to make challah.

“They both take this event really seriously and are incredibly dedicated,” Lisa said. “I could never get them to focus on anything at home like they do here.”

“We don’t have a recipe at home,” Chloe said. “We’ve only made it there once, but we usually get it from somewhere else.”

This year’s Mega Challah Bake was the first time some participants had the opportunity to make challah. Cameron Smith and her brother, Hayden, came for the first time after some friends of theirs suggested to.

“We’ve never made it at home before. Usually our friends make it for us,” Cameron said. “We’re excited to learn how to finally make it.”

In addition to adding babka to the schedule, Friendship Circle also hosted a “Build-a-Challah” doll workshop for kids beforehand. Similar to the famous “Build-a-Bear” workshop, attendees were able to create a stuffed, plush challah doll. To bring their dolls to “life,” each child wrote down a mitzvah resolution and placed it inside the doll. Once completed, each child received an official birth certificate with their challah doll’s name.

“It was an adorable and fabulous addition to the bake,” Levertov said. “I think overall it’s great to have this bake because it creates a positive Jewish experience where we’re all together and creating something. It really brings out a good sense of community for all of us.” JN

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