Q. What was your first experience baking Challah?
It was summer 2015 and the kitchen staff at the Jewish Girls Retreat were baking Challah for the camp. Nechama asked me if I wanted to participate in the Mitzvah of separating Challah, and I had to tell her that I had never done it before! So of course Nechama and our camp cook, Michelle, made a point to explain to me the meaning behind it. I learned that while separating the challah with a blessing, I had the opportunity to pray for someone in need. My sister had just been married earlier in the summer, so of course I thought of her and prayed that her wishes to have a child would be fulfilled.
Thank G-d now I have a little nephew who’s almost a year old!
Q. Why did you decide to come back today to visit Nechama in her home to bake Challah?
I came back to Winter Retreat this past year where Nechama gave me a challah cover as a gift for receiving the JGR Alumna Award. I told her that now I had a reason to learn how to bake challah and she invited me to her home to learn on any Thursday.
Months flew by and I hadn’t spoken to Nechama, but I had a dream last week that reminded me of my resolution to learn how to bake Challah. I hadn’t even thought of JGR in a while, but in my dream I only remember seeing a girl who was wearing a JGU T-shirt. It reminded me to go back and learn more.
We baked 10 pounds of Challah today and Nechama taught me a lot more than just how to bake challah!
Q. How did you even hear about the Jewish Girls Retreat in 2010 at your first Winter Retreat?
During the summer my best friend was going away to a religious (not Jewish) camp and so I told my mother that I also wanted to go to a camp. She assumed that meant, I wanted to go to a religious camp, so she went on a homeschool website and asked if anyone knew of a local camp for Jewish girls. We got a response from the nurse of JGR, who also homeschooled her children, telling my mother about this amazing retreat.
Although I enjoyed the retreat, when Nechama called to invite me again, I told her I wasn’t planning on coming back for the upcoming retreat. It was close to Chanukah and she told me about the Chabad of Delmar Menorah Lighting, and that it would be a great Jewish experience. The Menorah reignited my Jewish spark. I also met some of my JGR friends and I decided to return once again. Now I can proudly say that I haven’t missed a winter retreat since 2010, or a summer retreat since 2013, coming back as both a camper and a staff member.
Q. What are some of your fondest memories?
This is a hard question for me because most of what happens at JGR are some of my fondest memories in life. Everything from playing UNO at midnight during my first retreat to sitting in the rain with a few campers and staff members just talking about anything that popped into our minds. Everything we do in JGR is a fond memory of mine.
Q. How did you grow at the Retreats?
Considering I came to JGR knowing next to nothing about Judaism, JGR helped me grow and learn in so many ways. I think that attending these retreats has really helped me grow into a better person, both spiritually and emotionally. It has given me a chance to learn everything I can about my Jewish heritage. I see a new light and a new meaning to everything I do.
Q. How will you stay in touch and continue to grow your Jewish soul?
I live and go to college fairly close to Nechama and her family, so I can always stop by and visit! Although the counselors and other staff members have taught me a lot, Nechama and her family have taught me the most. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. They taught me all about mitzvahs, how to light Shabbos candles, how to bake challah, and how to be a Jew. I know that if I ever have a question or want to learn more just for the sake of learning, Nechama will always be there with a bunch of stories for me!
Although I’m not much of a blogger, I’m going to try my best to write about my Jewish journey for the JGU website community. I look forward to spending more time with JGU!