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Week 33: "Stepping Inside"

Daniel Barash

“I’m a Challah Artist!” Aviva proudly proclaimed last Friday as she painted our loaves with egg-wash before they were placed in the oven. And you know what—she’s right! Looking back almost nine months ago, when we began this project, Aviva didn’t have a lot of dexterity with the brush; awkwardly clutching it, she would half-paint each loaf, with Abba Daniel acting as the sweeper, making sure there was somewhat even coverage throughout.

But last week, she was all about precision, focus, and attention to detail. Gently dipping the brush into the egg wash, she then carefully coated each challah, gingerly dabbing all the nooks and crannies. What a difference nine months makes! Week after week, month after month, one cannot help but start to learn the tricks of the trade, the techniques, so to speak!

 "I'm a Challah Artist!"

"I'm a Challah Artist!"

After the piping hot loaves came out of the oven, we walked down the street to our monthly stop at the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center (WDDC), an amazing organization that for more than a quarter century has been providing support services to homeless women and their children. On our previous visits, however, we didn’t really venture much beyond the front door. Zoe Thiele-Seidenberg, the center’s incredible Volunteer Coordinator, would come to greet us, accept the challah, and thank Aviva for the tasty loaf that was sure to be enjoyed by visiting women and children throughout the day.

Over the last couple of visits, I’ve felt it was time for Aviva to see a bit more of the Center’s environment and rhythms, while at the same time respecting the privacy of the visiting women and their families. When I mentioned this to Zoe, she immediately suggested that we drop-off the challah early on the Friday before Mother’s Day, as we could then see them prepare for a special breakfast “celebrating the women of the center, and the role they play in each others lives, that of their children and community!”

After we arrived, Zoe led us past the front lobby and into the kitchen / dining room area, where we immediately smelled fresh pancakes being prepared and saw plentiful bottles of syrup (Aviva’s favorite!). As pancakes and french toast are regular parts of our weekend mornings, I suddenly realized how much we as a family often take these special meals for granted, and as a given.

Peering next into the kitchen, we were treated to the sight of a bowl full of bright red starberries. After seeing the look in Aviva’s eyes, she was of course offered the sweet taste of some of these wonder-fruits. Again, something we take for granted every week, as we often come home from Monterey Market with fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries.

Finally, we stepped into the living room, which in addition to chairs, sofas, and magazines, features literally hundreds of photographic portraits of women and their children who have benefited from WDDC’s support programs. All the photos have been taken by a longtime Center volunteer. Aviva was clearly entranced, staring for quite a while at the pictures in front of her. Although she saw the faces, and the beauty held therein, she could not yet appreciate the painful stories that so many of these women and children have lived. And on the flip side, she could not possibly understand the extremely important role that WDDC plays in the lives of those who visit the Center. In time…

Speaking of time, before we left for the day, we invited Zoe to spend some time baking with us for an upcoming “Challah-it-Forward” Thursday-night-bake. She was touched, and informed Aviva that she has never made challah before, and would be honored to join in the fun.

Aviva smiled her warm smile before quickly burying her head in Abba’s shoulder. First Aviva the “Challah Artist,” and now Aviva the “Challah Teacher!” They grow up so fast!

Shabbat Shalom to you and yours…