Baking challah in Marlboro preserves Judaism for generations


MARLBORO — The first time Rabbi Yossi Kanelsky and his wife Dina hosted a challah baking event in preparation for the High Holy Days was at their home and there were about 15 people in attendance.

Nearly two decades later, about 150 people crowded tables at the Center for Jewish Life in Marlboro.

“When we started it was just women, we had no kids, then once we had more space we opened it up, so it’s more of a family event. “, said Dina Kanelsky.

Baking challah, a special bread, is one of the few mitzvahs or commandments given to Jewish women. Traditionally, the challah is braided linearly before each Shabbat dinner. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which begins at sundown next Sunday, the challah is braided in a circle.

Sophie Blinder, 3, preemptively pours flour into the yeast mixture during a challah-making event Monday, Sept. 19, 2022 at the Center for Jewish Life in Marlboro, New Jersey.

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Marlboro’s Julia Bakshiyev said she has been attending the annual challah baking event from the start. This year, she brought her granddaughter Sonya Coklyat, 3, for her first event.

“It’s good to be part of the community,” Bakshiyev said.

This intergenerational experience is what Rabbi Kanelsky said he seeks, “if we are to pass on Torah and traditions to the next generation.”

He said, “When a kid comes to a synagogue and makes challah and has a wonderful experience, and that’s their introduction to Jewish life, what are my chances of getting them back? What are my chances of them telling their mother or father that they want to come to Hebrew school? Very high.”

Dina Kanelsky demonstrates how to weave a round challah at the Center for Jewish Life's challah-making event in preparation for High Holy Days on Monday, September 19, 2022 in Marlboro, New Jersey.

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Julie Blinder from Old Bridge came to bake the challah with her grandmother and daughter.

“It’s an age-old tradition for us,” Blinder said. “It’s something that’s important to me and it’s a value in our family, I grew up that way, and so I try to teach my daughter the same way.”

“There are many reasons why we specifically have a round challah,” Rabbi Kanelsky said. “One of the reasons is that we wish each other an unlimited amount of goodness. … We should have a year full of blessings and substance and hopefully things will continue to be up and something. special and unique.

He said raisins can be added to symbolize a sweet new year.

“The element of adding a sweet new year is because as a Jewish nation, as a Jewish people, as anyone who believes in God, we know that nothing bad comes from heaven,” said the Rabbi Kanelsky. “Everything has a reason and a purpose. However, many of these things do not always come in a revealed way. … So our wish is for others, for our brothers and sisters, that the Jewish new year be upon us, that we have a happy and sweet new year, that the goodness that God bestows on each one of us is sweet , pleasant and something that (will) be revealed.

Juliya Fulman and her daughter Sofiana Fulman set aside a portion of challah to burn on Monday, September 19, 2022 at the Center for Jewish Life in Marlboro, New Jersey.  The separation of the challah recalls a practice when the portion was given to the priests of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

For the past two years, the pandemic had forced the synagogue to resort to online classes and curbside Passover matzo pickups. But Rabbi Kanelsky said the center was proactive in its programming to avoid gaps.

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“As soon as someone stops doing something, they become very comfortable in their new ways,” he said. “And it’s a lot harder to get them back into the groove.”

And so for this new year – 5783 on the Jewish calendar – after a long struggle with COVID and economic hardship, the rabbi encourages Jews to return to their synagogues. “I encourage everyone to get together with family and friends in their homes and take a fresh look and give our Jewish observers and our Jewish relations a pragmatic approach. And to ask themselves as parents and grand -parents: ‘What are we doing? What are we doing not only to preserve, but to perpetuate a path along Judaism to the next generation?’

OlivierLiuis a reporter covering transport, Red Bank and West Monmouth County. She can be contacted at [email protected]


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