The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award was established to recognize an Orange County Jewish Community leader who makes an impact beyond the community in which they live, who is a tireless volunteer for the community, and who has recognizable accomplishments. Last year Arie Katz, was the inaugural winner of this annual award.
The second annual Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award is being given to the OC Mega Challah Bake program. The OC Mega Challah Bake had its first event in 2014 when it aligned with the South African Global Shabbat Project. The program has had the continuous support of Chabad of Irvine and Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine. The mission of the OC committee is to unite women of all ages and affiliations coming together for the mitzvah of making challah. From the basketball courts on TVT’s campus to Hotel Irvine and then to an indoor basketball facility, the event has always been a fun mix of inspirational programming, Israeli dancing and kneading and braiding.
Like everything in 2020, the question was—How do you organize a challah bake during a Pandemic?
Well, the first and most important answer is that you do it! You don’t put it off until next year because of social distance guidelines. You don’t postpone it because it won’t be the same or as meaningful. You don’t wait because there are literally hundreds of women who want to come together as a community. Instead, you roll up your sleeves, you get creative with your programming, obviously virtual but still magnificently inspiring! Volunteers rise to the different and difficult logistical issues—putting kits together safely, executing plans for all the delivery challenges, and navigating new technologies for online streaming of large events. With these challenges came opportunities for firsts.
This year the OC Mega Challah Bake partnered with JFFS and survivors of the Holocaust by providing 100 kits and assisting with preparations. Challah kits were also shared with the Mandel House, Horwitz House and Jeremiah Society. 250 kits were distributed to families by TVT Community Day school. Participants gave generously to Simchat Shabbat. Finally, many families sent kits to their children at college or family members far away or were excited to knead with their children.
In the end, the community—over 1000 Orange County women participated in this mitzvah—even when they were tired of the pandemic, social distancing and zooming.
The OC Mega Challah Bake is a community building event every year!
The Irving “Papa” Gelman Leadership Award committee is chaired by Lou Weiss for the Gelman family, and members include Wendy Arenson of OC Jewish Community Foundation, Hal Altman of JCC, Rabbi Yisroel Ciner of Beth Jacob Irvine, Franki Cohen for the Samson Family, Steve Kaufman of Tarbut V’Torah, Rabbi Peter Levi of ADL, Rabbi Stuart Light of TVT’s Jewish Life and Learning, Arlene Miller of JFFS, Rabbi Elie Spitz of Congregation B’nai Israel, Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum of Chabad of Irvine, and Rabbi Gersh Zylberman of Temple Bat Yahm.
Award recipients receive an $18,000 account at the Jewish Community Foundation Orange County, from which they may direct gifts to Jewish 501(c)(3) organizations in OC. Award winners’ charitable distributions will be reported annually in JLife Magazine with the announcement of each subsequent Award winner.
Nominations of future awards can be submitted at
www.GelmanAward.com. Mazal Tov, Mega Challah Bake “Together We Rise!”
One 2020 OC Mega Challah Bake Experience
By Ilene Schneider
The OC Mega Challah Bake—a grassroots, intergenerational, contemporary Jewish women’s identity movement unifying all Orange County Jewish Women—always provides a sense of bonding and empowerment for women and girls. The 2020 event was no exception, thanks to exceptional planning, attention to details and unbridled warmth that was evident in the necessarily virtual setting.
In 2020, the challenges of putting on this event were unique, but the coordinating committee overcame all of the obstacles and created a first-class event. In spite of COVID-19, 1,000 kits were sold and Orange County Jewish women and girls from every Jewish background came together to fulfill the mitzvah of challah, joining virtually with each other and with women and girls around the world. Ingredients and instructions were assembled, packed—along with aprons—and delivered by the committee beforehand.
Participants were able to tune into Zoom and feel the same sense of camaraderie as ever. They listened to a short broadcast with instructions and speeches and then proceeded to bake challah in the safety of their own homes. Many participants used social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to show off their preparations as well as their fully baked challot.
While previous OC Mega Challah Bake events had more than 1,000 attendees, with singing, dancing, refreshments and other entertainment, the 2020 OC Mega Challah Bake made up for the social distancing issue with love, dedication and spirit. The energy was invigorating to all of the people making challah in their own kitchens, especially those for whom transportation and mobility might have kept them from coming to an in-person event. At a time when community unity and togetherness were so important to every Jewish woman, these qualities were evident to everyone who participated in the 2020 OC Mega Challah Bake.