At 7 p.m. on Nov. 8, The Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University hosted the Mega Challah Bake in the Mandela Room. Hundreds of students and Binghamton community members gathered to pray together, connect with one another and make challah bread. Eight flavors of challah were available to taste, as well as dozens of tables with ingredients portioned out for people to prepare challah dough themselves. In addition to the delicious and culturally significant bread, the event was a chance to interact with and engage in the local Jewish community.

Ami Schreiber, a junior majoring in psychology who regularly attends Chabad, explained his appreciation for the event.

“It’s important to come here to be part of the community and to just be part of something, especially in times like this with the stuff going on around the world,” Schreiber said. “When you have everybody physically together in one room doing something, it promotes unity.”

Before the baking began, Goldie Ohana, director of programming and engagement at Chabad, gave a short speech reminding attendees of the importance of camaraderie and togetherness during these turbulent times.

“Now, more than ever, is the time we need to find our friends, find our family, find our people and unite, gather with the Jews around us, do mitzvot and bring light and goodness into this world,” Ohana said. “That is our job right here.”

Following the speech, attendees held a short prayer for their fellow Jewish community members both in Binghamton and across the world. Ohana stressed that the Jewish people, near and far, are one big family.

Michelle Grant, 56, of Binghamton, commented upon the relevance of the event.

“It’s a time when we all really need to be together and do something like this,” Grant said. “I think with everything going on right now, people are stronger in their faith.”

Spirits in general were high at the event. Following the group prayer, a short comedy sketch video titled “Apron Man” was played, in which Apron Man runs about the Binghamton area helping people and collecting ingredients to give Apron Woman a bagel. After this, there was a Chabad-themed game of Kahoot. Each table competed as a group, further promoting teamwork and community before the main event began. Donations were also accepted for the Chanukah Toy Drive.

Once these activities were done, it was time to bake. While Ohana walked the attendees through most of the process, there was plenty of time for talk among the tables. Coupled with the recipes being provided and the ingredients already measured out, the event ran smoothly and efficiently while remaining accessible and inviting. Attendees ranged from members of fraternities such as Alpha Epsilon Pi, BU students, Chabad members and local residents and their families.

This massive turnout represented what the event was all about. From frequent Chabad attendees who were already familiar with Jewish culture to those who’d never engaged in prayer or baking before, all were welcomed just the same. Students joined one another in the Mandela Room for a celebration of compassion, faith and culture — and an appetite for challah.

Editor’s Note (11/20): We also want to acknowledge Michal Levine, Sophie Blank, Ziva Kaye and Adina Spilky for their efforts in organizing and holding this event.