As COVID-19 continued to spread and Black Lives Matter protests persisted throughout the nation last summer, four sisters were inspired to unite others through the sharing of challah bread.
Challah Back Girls, founded by Hannah Loffman, ‘20, Sara Loffman, ‘15, Marni Loffman and Eliana Loffman, aims to create collaborative and mutual support across minority communities through the power of food and ritual. The sisters fundraise for, support and uplift organizations leading racial equity work by connecting people to the Jewish ritual of challah, a traditionally braided bread. Through sharing this Jewish tradition, they hope to provide an educational opportunity for healing and transforming social injustice and working to weave people together from diverse backgrounds in order to share histories and stories.
The initial realization of the power of challah occurred when the Loffman sisters learned of a local volunteer ambulance corps that needed challah for the Sabbath. The sisters offered to contribute. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has expanded its efforts and provided challah to health care and frontline workers. After attending a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020, the Loffman sisters officially launched Challah Back Girls.
“When the nation witnessed the murder of George Floyd, there was a renewed wave of antiracist activism,” Hannah wrote in an email. “We turned to our Jewish values of compassion, equity and justice, the consciousness of being outsiders and know that Jewish freedom and safety is tied up in the freedom and safety of all others. So, we wanted to do something about it.”
After receiving numerous customer inquiries, the organization shifted focus and started selling the challah to donate the profits they made each week to a different organization committed to addressing racial inequities. In March 2021, the organization they chose to amplify was the Black Women’s Health Imperative, which aims to solve health issues that affect Black women and girls in the United States.
Marni explained how their connection and lived relationships with people from across various communities gave the sisters a sense of civic obligation to participate in issues outside of their community.
“As a house of ‘people persons,’ we have always been acutely aware of the way people are interconnected, and the power we have to hurt and heal one another,” Marni wrote. “We try to channel this ethos into the way we build community, relationships and make life choices about what issues to show up for.”
Hannah said the practice of braiding the challah bread holds particular significance to their cause.
“In taking these different strands of dough, crafted in isolation and unifying them, we are reminded of the powerful ways that our human beings are also enmeshed with each other, inevitably connected, while also maintaining our unique experiences and histories,” Hannah wrote. “In this moment of social change, awakening us to how our lives are literally all connected, yet impacted uniquely by race, class and our histories.”
The challah offered on the organization’s website comes in multiple flavors such as plain, chocolate chip, coffee crumb and “Everything But the Bagel.” Hannah explained how the sisters hope to contribute toward social justice through the symbol of challah.
“Today, we are living through an unprecedented time, fraught with uncertainty [and] anxiety, and found a need for creativity, thoughtfulness and resilience,” Hannah wrote. “The symbol of challah is powerful, from the time it was used as an offering to the high priests, kohanim, when we first learned how to bake challah in our elementary Jewish day school.”
Sara explained how the human development courses she took at BU taught her how to recognize injustice and systems of oppression and offer tools and resources for healing and transformation.
“These values of lived experience, empathy, dignity and worth of human beings, to name a few, are in the foundation of Challah Back Girls and were learned at BU,” Sara wrote. “Additionally, the call to action by the movement and community around us inspired us to do some soul searching and explore how we can be social change agents and forces of support and amplification during such a tumultuous and polarizing time in America.”
Challah Back Girls ships nationwide and offers local delivery services in their hometown of Teaneck, NJ or pickup on Fridays. To learn more, visit https://challahbackgirls.org/.