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The challah was officially measured by Guinness at the Great Big Challah Bake held in the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope on Wednesday night. Over 2,000 women and girls joined in the event, with each one preparing their own challah as a prelude to the Shabbos Project, a world wide effort to spread the beauty of Shabbos to Jews of all levels of religiosity, taking place this weekend.
The idea for the challah came about at last year’s Shabbos Project according to Rabbi Yaakov Giniger, director of programming for Project Inspire, which is running the Great Challah Bake for the Shabbos Project. Logistics for creating the record breaking challah kept organizers busy for weeks, with Strauss Bakery preparing the dough, which was then braided by a group of four people in under an hour. Once the six strand challah had risen, it was transferred to a custom made, 20 foot long aluminum sheet with handles, placed atop a wooden board of equal length and taken to a second bakery for baking
“We couldn’t find an oven in any of the heimishe bakeries that was big enough for the challah,” Rabbi Giniger told VIN News. “We contacted Rabbi Bendelstein at the OU and he found a pita bakery owned by an Arab Christian who was happy to work with us.”
Watch below video of the event.
Ed Mafoud, owner of Damascus bakery, had to make several changes to his ovens in order to accommodate the challah.
“They gave us their time and their staff and had to partially dismantle the oven because they weren’t sure they could fit the challah into the oven which normally bakes items that are less than four inches high,” said Rabbi Giniger.
Once those technical difficulties had been overcome, the challah baking team had to figure out the best way to bake a challah in an oven that normally runs at 700 degrees.
“We did a few test runs and we had a few flops,” admitted Rabbi Giniger. “We found that if we turned off the oven and left it cooling for an hour the challah came out okay.”
Two challahs were actually made for the Guinness attempt, a decision that proved to be fortuitous.
“The first one came out okay as did the second one,” said Rabbi Giniger. “But then the first one cracked and hit the floor so it was good that we had the second one.”
The challah was kept covered under a series of white cloths at the Great Challah Bake until it was officially certified by Alex Angert of Guinness. It will ultimately make its way to a special Shabbos table in keeping with Guinness requirements which do not allow food items to discarded once they have been awarded their record breaking status.
“We are presenting it to Mr. Isaac Gross of GFI as hakaras hatov for sponsoring the Shabbos Project and the Great Challah Bake,” said Rabbi Giniger. “The challah will be used at a public meal for the Shabbos Project with his family for over 60 people.”
Angert, who has certified approximately 50 records for Guinness, described the Great Challah Bake as “thrilling.”
“It was a great community event which is what Guinness Records is all about, bringing the community together, whether it is a record number of people, a large food item, or something where people are coming together to create something,” said Angert.
The beginnings of a second symbolic challah was created during the Great Challah Bake, as specially designated runners took a small amount of dough from everyone in attendance.
“We are taking a pinch from every challah, putting it into a box and sending it to Strauss Bakery where it will be made into a massive pull apart challah, symbolizing that while each of us are individuals, we are all part of one whole,” noted Rabbi Giniger.
“This will be the challah of unity,” added Rabbi Chaim Sampson, founder and director of Project Inspire. “We felt that this great event was a celebration of Jewish unity and what greater symbol of unity could there possibly be than to get into the Guinness Book of World Challah with the largest braided bread in the world?”
The unity challah will also be donated to one of over 20 public meals being held in Brooklyn this week for the Shabbos project.
Photo Credit: (Shimon Gifter/VINnews.com)