Like many of us, Sara Loffman and her family got into baking in a big way during the pandemic. But instead of dialing back as the world has reopened, the four siblings have expanded. Challah Back Girls, which is based in Teaneck, New Jersey, now ships challah nationwide, supporting social and racial justice organizations with a portion of the proceeds.
“Starting Challah Back Girls was an organic process, a combination of our passion for community, healing and challah making,” explained Loffman. When the siblings found themselves isolated together in their childhood home in early 2020, they began baking challah from their family recipe to give to essential workers. “People started to ask if they could purchase challah. We were all doing other work or school and we didn’t want to take on that project. But then the murder of George Floyd happened and we were inspired to figure out how to merge our challah baking tradition with the essential work of promoting equity in this country,” she said.
Each month, Challah Back Girls partners with a non-profit organization, donating a portion of their sales and also amplifying the mission — a postcard about the organization is included with each order. Past partners include RAICES (the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), the Anti-Defamation League, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Jewish Queer Youth, the Seattle Indian Health Board, and the Asian American American Federation.
The siblings’ Jewish faith deeply informs their work with Challah Back Girls. “The Jewish community has a long history of standing by and uplifting other minority communities to promote the well-being and rights of all,” said Loffman. “Weaving the strands of dough into one [challah] braid symbolizes that unity and diversity. We act as one, honoring our differences.”
“We grew up really respecting and honoring tikkun olam, [a Hebrew phrase that means] repairing the world,” she added. “There are many ways to do that. Think globally, act locally, ask what you can do within your community to change society for the greater good — work towards repairing the world.”
Although Challah Back Girls started in the siblings’ childhood home, production has since shifted to a local kosher bakery. In addition to classic plain challah, flavors include apple cinnamon sugar (a customer favorite), chocolate chip, and coffee crumb. The menu also features challah rolls and seasonal specials, like a sufganichallah inspired by Israeli jelly doughnuts for Hanukkah and a rainbow-hued challah for Pride Month.
As she did in the early days of the pandemic, Loffman values the connections that Challah Back Girls has fostered. “There was someone in Colorado who wasn’t able to find challah in their area for 25 years, and they were so excited to learn about the work we do…Another thing that’s special is that we’ll get a lot of adult children sending challah to elderly family members from across the country. I just sent someone’s 79th order to their grandmother.”
Looking to the future, Loffman hopes to organize more in-person events, building community over challah. “Often we go about our daily life and operations and don’t stop to really reflect on who we are as individuals, who we are to our neighbors, and who we can be, to work towards repairing the world and creating a more just, equitable and compassionate society. I like to connect with our audience and grow together.”
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