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Loaves of Love Shared with Howard County Seniors

View this story in the Baltimore Jewish Times

by Justin Katz

When it comes to homemade food, freshly baked challah has always held a special place in the Jewish tradition, and several Howard County parents are giving back to the community with the braided delight.

“A lot of people have good memories of challah and Shabbat. I think if you went to a Sunday school and asked any grade for five Jewish symbols,” said Lisa Welch, a Howard County resident, “challah would always be one of them.”

Last week, Welch hosted a challah-baking night for Loaves of Love, a community service initiative created by the Jewish Federation of Howard County in partnership with BBYO and the Kugel Connection.

The program brings parents of BBYO students in Howard County together once every several months to bake and package freshly made challah. Then the challah, along with grape juice, is delivered to elderly residents in the Jewish community.

The parents are connected to seniors in the community through Cheryl Kaufman, founder of the Kugel Connection, a nonprofit organization that assists elderly residents in the Howard County Jewish community by providing volunteer workers.

Kaufman, who worked with Meals on Wheels for several years, was inspired to start the Kugel Connection in January 2014 after traveling to Israel with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, a birthright-style trip for Jewish mothers. Following the trip she wanted to connect her Judaism to her volunteer work.

“The idea is that we help [seniors] celebrate Shabbat, but [after] you give them the food and the grape juice,” said Monica Recht, who attended the last baking session, “you give them company and bring a spark to their day they might not have otherwise have.” Jonah Potasznik, regional director for Howard County at BBYO, said the initiative reflects Howard County’s ability to experiment with different forms of engagement due to its size.

The Jewish Federation of Howard County started the initiative as a way to get parents of BBYO teens engaged Jewishly. The “committee felt community service brings people together,” said Michelle Goldberg, director of outreach and family programming. The parents convened in the fall last year and are planning to meet again in the spring.

In addition to helping the community, Welch and Recht both said it’s also an opportunity for the parents to connect with each other. “I enjoy having people [at my home], and I haven’t had the chance to meet [some of these parents],” said Welch. “Our kids are in BBYO together and go to school together, but we don’t know each other, so it’s a great way to bond. We’re all going through the same things [such as] driver’s education and colleges.”

Last Thursday night, all hands were on deck, as the women mixed, kneaded, braided and baked challah dough to a golden brown finish at Welch’s Clarksville kitchen.

“I think it’s important to give back to the elders in the Jewish community,” said Welch. “A lot of the Jewish seniors don’t have Shabbos in the same way they did earlier in their lives. It’s [important] to bring a little Shabbos to them and say, ‘You’re a member of the community; this is what Jews do for each other.’”

“I think there are a lot of people who are lonely and could use companionship,” said Recht. “And [it’s important] to value them and [make them] feel like they’re important and feel the Jewish community is behind them.”

jkatz@midatlanticmedia.com

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