October 2014 seems a long time ago. Then, I was an unaffiliated, unobservant, secular Jew married to an unaffiliated non-Jew. A friend suggested that I consider checking out the Great Arizona Challah Bake. I agreed, largely because my youngest daughter was attending a local Jewish high school, and she and her schoolmates were participating in the event as “challah coaches”.
When I walked into the room at the JCC, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of awe; by the spirit and presence of hundreds of Jewish women from all walks of life. For the first time, I realised the connection I had to countless generations of powerful, wonderful, beautiful Jewish women, stretching over millennia – from our foremother, Sarah Imeinu, all the way through to my mother, to me, and to my three amazing daughters (all of whom, unlike me, knew how to bake challah).
It literally sent shivers down my spine. I felt pride and awe and an overwhelming sense of love. And at that moment, I realised that I had the obligation to maintain that 4 000-year-old chain connecting my children back through Sinai to Sarah and the other matriarchs.
My husband, Chris and I, decided to participate in the whole Shabbat Project experience that year. We were invited to a community dinner and Shabbat lunch. We walked to shul, and attended my husband’s first Orthodox service. And we attended an amazing Havdallah Concert.
And we have never looked back.
Today, I bake challah every week (sometimes with my daughter, the former high school challah coach). My husband and I kashered our kitchen and have kept Shabbat every week since that fateful day in 2014. Chris, meanwhile, is on the “home stretch” (the Beit Din’s words) of an Orthodox conversion.
Last year, I participated in the Great Arizona Challah Bake as a coach, alongside my daughter and nearly 1 000 other women. This year, I’ve decided I want to give back even more. And so I am honoured to co-chair the “Phoenix/Scottsdale Shabbat Project – Keeping it Together 2016” initiative, along with the amazing Robin Meyerson and many other wonderful volunteers.
My fervent hope is that the event is as enjoyable – and as meaningful and momentous – for others as it was for my family and I in 2014.