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Tucson Jewish community prepares for Rosh Hashanah with "Mega Challah Bake"

Tucson Jewish community prepares for Rosh Hashanah with "Mega Challah Bake"
Posted at 5:42 PM, Sep 14, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Over 200 spots at the Tucson Jewish Community Center were set with key ingredients and recipe instructions for making challah bread dough.

On Thursday, women and girls filled those spots in preparation for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Friday night and ends Sunday at sundown.

It's tradition to make challah bread for the High Holidays.

“My wife Faigy, her mother, her grandmother have make challah every Friday and have been doing so for generations," Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson said.

"And so this tradition that they’ve been holding in their house for many years started to grow when more people were interested in coming....And then exactly ten years ago, we decided, 'Let’s have a Mega Challah Bake.'"

Chabad Tucson organizes the event. It's the 5th bake hosted at the JCC, and this year is the first time back in-person since COVID.

"At the JCC, we really consider ourselves the town square of the community. We are a place where everyone belongs and some people join," President and CEO of the center Todd Rockoff said.

"And we are at our best when we are working in collaboration and partnership with others in the community."

Attendees prepared the dough as a group and then brought it home in to-go boxes to bake the next day.

“The smell will spread in their house," Rabbi Ceitlin said. "I think some of them will be adding raisins and some other sweet ingredients in there. Some people throw in chocolate and cinnamon.”

But there's a deeper meaning behind the bread.

During the cooking process, the women pull apart the dough and dedicate it to God, recite a blessing, and pray for people who need healing.

“Our hope is that people take home the inspiration that they get from this event. They take home not just the challah, but they take home the spirit and the connections that they make," Rabbi Ceitlin said.

“I think we’ve learned how valuable it is to have that feeling of togetherness," Rockoff added. "And that feeling that then you can take with you, knowing that you’ve been with and made new friends and feel a sense of optimism and hope as you move forward.”

Mikenzie Hammel joined the KGUN 9 team as a multimedia journalist in the summer of 2023. She graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. With her passion for human connection and visual storytelling, Mikenzie is honored to share the stories of Tucson and southeastern Arizona. Share your story ideas and important issues with Mikenzie by emailing mikenzie.hammel@kgun9.com.