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Challah and Shabbat for Everyone

A 20-foot challah was unveiled in Brooklyn Wednesday night, earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records

Tess Cutler
October 22, 2015
Project Inspire
Project Inspire
Project Inspire
Project Inspire

On Wednesday night at the swanky Grand Prospect Park Hall in Brooklyn, New York, a judge took the stage, whipped out his trusty tape measure, and counted 20 feet of bread—a humongous egg challah was in the running for the Guinness Book of World Records. “You are all officially amazing!” he announced to a crowd of over 2,000 people, most of them frum women. They went wild. Behind the judge, the mastermind behind this monster of an egg bread, Rabbi Yaakov Giniger, director of programming for Project Inspire, stood with fellow challah conspirators, soaking in the winning moment.

The six-stranded, giant challah was unveiled at the end of the Great Big Challah Bake, one of 126 challah bake-offs taking place worldwide as part of The Shabbos Project, a initiative started two years ago in South Africa with the goal of encouraging Jews from all walks of life, across the globe, to observe one big collective Sabbath together—beginning this Friday night, October 23.

(Image courtesy of Project Inspire)
(Image courtesy of Project Inspire)

At the beginning of the night, the high-energy emcee, Orthodox Zumba instructor Shimi Adar, 32, sporting a sequined top hat for the occasion, hollered, “Ladies and ladies, welcome to the great challah bake!” As she extended the “a” in “bake” inside of a thunderous round of applause, the crystal chandeliers swayed overhead. At the bake-off, everybody braided their challah dough, which they got to take home. Tickets to the event went for $18 a pop, available to women ages 12 and up.

Volunteers Shavy Grossberg and her daughter Suri were beyond elated to be there. “From when we woke up this morning, we knew today was the day,” the mother said with sure enthusiasm. She mentioned she had to move Suri’s orthodontist appointment so they could prepare for the challah bake-off by helping to organize 2,000 table settings with essential challah ingredients such as flour, water, mixing bowls, and aprons. Suri, 13, flashed a beaming smile.

Before the official unveiling, the massive challah (the belle of the ball) was covered with a sheet like a veiled bride. At the end of the night, the challah was officially presented, accompanied by a room full of “oohs” and “aahs.”

It took two bakeries, two attempts (the first challah broke), 40 pounds of flour, five gallons of water, and a year of planning to get this baby baking, which was no easy feat. Supplying the dough was Eli Berman of Brooklyn’s Strauss Kosher Bakery while Edward Mafoud of Damascus Bakery generously offered his kosher oven (since apparently no heimishe bakery had an oven big enough).

On Friday, the challah, officially dubbed “the longest braided bread in the world,” will be escorted by police during a parade, transported in a flatbed truck, to the house of the daughter of the Shabbos Project’s sponsor, Isaac Gross’s. There, over 60 lucky people will get to partake in the record-breaking challah, which is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union.

Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.