Chicago’s Shabbat Project and Challah Bake

By Stacey Panner

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This year’s Shabbat Project Chicago Challah Bake in Lake Zurich was dedicated in memory of my grandmother and best friend, Lorraine Margalit.  As a Challah Ambassador and site leader for Shabbat Project Chicago, I shared that she was the daughter of immigrants and raised in a kosher home, speaking Yiddish, and observing Shabbat as they did in the “old country.”  Many of these traditions carried over when raising her own family, but my Bubby was a modern woman and with time, those traditions changed. But the one thing that never wavered was her commitment to lighting candles every Friday night.  I brought her to this annual event and joyfully watched as she giggled with laughter while squishing her hands in the bowl. Her face could not hide the bliss she felt as she made new friends around the table. She always made sure to tell me how proud she was that I was returning to a place of religious observance of which she once began. To me, this is what the Shabbat project is all about: Love, growth, support, and Shabbat. My bubby died on May 29th 2018, three days before her 84th birthday, and three days after I delivered what would be the last loaf of her favorite chocolate chip challah. I then challenged each of the 160 women listening to me speak to go home and think about the kind of Shabbat memories they wanted to make, and then make them, as it’s never too late to create memories and warm our homes with Shabbos. 

In her merit, my family spent Shabbat in West Rogers Park as part of an organized weekend with Chicago Torah Network.  As a mother of two young children, it is not always easy to attend shul, so I studied what I could in preparation for our first full 25-hour Shabbos together.  In reading Parsha Vayeira, I learned that Abraham didn’t want God to destroy Sodom if there were righteous people who were also living there among the wicked. However, Abraham was uncertain as to the number of righteous people that needed to be living there in order for God to spare the city. Abraham didn’t want to start off with a number that was too small and have God dismiss the idea altogether. So he began with a higher number to see whether or not God even agreed with the idea.  I also learned that the mistake most people make when setting goals, and the reasons why we rarely achieve them, is that we focus solely on the attainment of a very large goal. But there are numerous smaller and very worthy milestones along the way that are necessary to hit if one is ever going to reach his main goal. Our human nature is usually to take an “all or nothing” attitude toward reaching our goals. Without smaller, incremental steps along the way, it becomes very easy to give up and become very frustrated and disappointed (www.aish.com).  Shabbat Project Chicago continues to actualize this lesson as the number of participants increase. These small, incremental steps have fostered a space for women to grow through leadership, philanthropy, and sisterhood.

I love that The Shabbat Project slogan is “Keeping it together,” but what does that actually mean?  Literally, it means to encourage Jews across the world to keep the Sabbath; however, a Google search suggested that the way to keep anything together is to use your experience for growth.  It is my belief that this type of growth is reflective and passionate, and I am in awe of the dedication given to this project.  For this reason, I plan to attend a hamantashen bake, a sufganiot bake, a couples bake night, order Shabbat dinner boxes, meet with Shabbat mentors, and connect with additional organizations and resources.  Shabbat Project Chicago has created an opportunity for learning, spiritual growth and unity, and shown Chicagoland that a single act can transform a nation; and it all started with a dream and a bag of flour.  

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