Oct 7, 2014 – Susan Wrote this Story last year and sent it to to the COLlive.com inbox: On the week I thought my family won’t taste homemade challah again, Nechama shows up at my door.
I wanted to share my holiday story to show how one act of kindness really does bring heaven down to earth.
When my in-laws moved into an assisted living residence in the Spring, we knew that we had seen the last year with homemade ‘challey’ from Bubbe.
For 30 years of my life, I have had the pleasure of celebrating Rosh HaShanah with home-baked challey from my mother-in-law. It was always a point of pride for her and we were blessed to feel that we wanted to spend the High Holy Days with my or my husband’s family. When we were not with her, she made sure we had challey where ever we were.
When my husband was a young man, he became the High Holiday Chazan for his home synagogue, and every year we would go there and I would gorge myself on ‘Mum’s’ challah and honey. In 2001, when I became president of my congregation, we had to decide whether to be apart for the holidays or if he would give up his contract for those years. Fortunately, he was recruited to become the High Holiday chazan at our congregation and my in-laws started coming to us and Mum brought her challey with her. We have celebrated together since then in our home.
This year as my beloved in-laws entered the last chapter of their lives, we knew home-baked challah was a tradition of the past. Neither my husband nor I had ever learned to bake challah.
This year, the day of Erev Rosh HaShanah, I got a call from Nechama Laber saying she had challah for me and when could she bring it to me. Though both of us were so busy, we managed to meet at her home just long enough for her to hand me a bag with 5 challahs in it for us to use for the holidays.
Though Nechama had no idea about it, I knew immediately of the importance of this to me and to my family and over the holiday meals time and again we told the story of how we didn’t think that we would have home-baked ‘challey’ this year, but we did thanks to Nechama Laber, and the work she does helping others.
The first bite of challah was an ‘event’ at our Yom Tov table because we were, of course, such homemade challah mavens. Though unspoken, we were all thinking the same thing, “How good can this be? It can’t be as good as Mum’s. My father in law was the one who said “Mur, this is good.” And we all agreed.
Of course we delighted in the sweet honey from Rabbi Laber’s own beehives, and I was elated to have delicious home-baked honey cakes that Nechama also provided for us. For my family, we knew this may be the last year with my mother in law [I weep even as I write those words]. We know not what HaShem’s plans are for her, but for sure, this year was a good celebration with Nechama’s challahs.
I am moved to share with you readers that I am working with Nechama and Rabbi to create a permanent home for the Jewish Girls Retreat. We must come together to help all of our Jewish daughters become Jewish mothers. The new permanent home will be the place where I learn to bake challey to provide for my own children for their holiday meals now that Bubbe can no longer do that [I find myself weeping again with love for my own precious Jewish daughters]. It will take a lot of money to make this vital dream a reality. Everybody can give something, and all together it makes a big difference. For those who have significant resources, I want to ask you to consider what better purpose is there than creating Jewish mothers from all of our Jewish daughters. JGR has been doing this for a decade and will continue for generations in a permanent new home.
I did not intend to write this request for support, all I intended to do was share my story of Nechama’s Challahs; but as I write this letter to you today, how can I not offer you the opportunity to join this worthy endeavor to grow Jewish mothers from all of our Jewish daughters?
Women & girls, keep baking your challahs!
With love, Susan Axelrod
To donate visit www.ahomeforjgr.com
P.S. Bubby Axelrod passed away a couple months later and we are comforted knowing that she spent a wonderful last Rosh Hashanah with her family enjoying homemade Challah.
Last week, we had a Tribute Class to honor her memory and Nechama made a “Challah Tribute” to Bubby Axelrod of blessed memory, who never missed a Shabbat or Holiday without her homemade Challey!