“I spent five years working in Times Square, and believe me, it’s dizzying. Everything is screaming at you from all sides for your attention,” says Project Inspire’s director of programming Rabbi Yaakov Giniger, who came up with a plan to break through the clutter. The idea: the world’s biggest challah. Giniger put up a billboard on Gowanus Expressway: “Brooklyn is doing Shabbos.”
Rabbi Giniger flew out a Guinness Book of World Records official to certify the mammoth challah as the biggest the world has ever seen. The challah had been baked in the oven of Damascus Bakery, whose ArabAmerican owner, Edward Mafoud, offered the use of his staff and premises, and did all baking modifications free of charge, simply because he loved the idea of The Shabbos Project.
A total of 2 200 women of all affiliations (around 500 unaffiliated) gathered at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall to witness the event and applaud the Guinness official, who declared, “You are all officially amazing.” The official conveyed to Giniger that of the 48 events he has overseen, he has never seen a crowd so enthused and ecstatic, snapping selfies with him for over an hour in the lobby. The Hafrasha (taking of the challah) was done by a Holocaust survivor, who spoke about having seen the mitzvah done as a little girl in her own home. The actual brocha was recited by her grown-up granddaughter, who is expecting a baby – a beautiful display of Jewish faith and continuity.
Registration for the Challah Bake was closed the day before at around 1 200 women, but on the Wednesday night, with queues stretching down the city block, the decision was made to open the doors to all. Leftover bowls, etc, were given to the women organising the Staten Island Challah Bake for the next night.
This is an excerpt from The Shabbos Project 2015 International Report. To read more about the Shabbat activities of more than 50 other cities worldwide during last year’s Shabbos Project, click here