Teens from CTeens, NCSY and BBYO joined together for the Not Your Bubbies’ Babka Bake at Congregation Schara Tzedek on March 7. (photo from CTeens)
On March 17, teens from three local organizations – CTeens (Chabad Teens), NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) and BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) – joined together for a mitzvah. Around 30 teens from Richmond and Vancouver gathered for the Not Your Bubbies’ Babka Bake at Congregation Schara Tzedek, where they learned how to braid challah and make chocolate babka.
This wasn’t an ordinary get-together, it was a mitzvah event, timed to help celebrate Purim. The challot went to seniors in the Light of Shabbat Program, and the teens took the babkas home.
The Light of Shabbat Program is run by Chabad Richmond, in partnership with the Kehila Society. Every other week, a group of volunteers makes and delivers full kosher meals, along with Shabbat candles and grape juice, to Richmond seniors who are alone on Friday nights. To find out more about the program, visit chabadrichmond.com/lightofshabbat. Part of the meal is homemade challah, which was made by these teens as part of the mishloach manot (also referred to as shalach manot), or Purim food baskets, given on the holiday.
It’s a mitzvah and tradition for adults to send a gift basket of ready-to-eat foods to at least one friend during the day of Purim. The baskets should include at least two foods, often hamantashen, chocolate, fruit, cookies or candy. The source of mishloach manot is the Megillah, or Book of Esther, which talks about “sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” The idea of sending gifts of food on Purim is to strengthen our bonds of friendship with fellow Jews, as one theme of Purim is friendship and unity.
Aiden, a 15-year-old CTeen, said the reason he joined the Not Your Bubbies’ Babka Bake event was to meet other Jewish teens, and help out. “I love to bake,” he said, “and it makes me feel good knowing that the challahs we’re baking are going to seniors in our community.”
A CTeen for two years, Aiden wanted to feel more connected to the Jewish community, so he started going to shul at Chabad Richmond. Then he met Rabbi Chalom Loeub, who leads the CTeen program. Among other things, the CTeens get together every Sunday to bake cookies and cakes for seniors. Aiden also mentioned going to the CTeen International Shabbaton in New York, which he said was “incredible.” He’s now trying to get other Jewish teens involved in CTeen, too.
Jillian Marks, 17, was another participant in the challah and babka bake. She came to the event through her involvement with BBYO. As a youth leader for the Vancouver chapter, she wants to create “a pluralistic environment for everyone who wants to meet other Jews and feel safe and be whoever they want to be.” BBYO holds different events, all of which have some Jewish element to them. For this particular event, BBYO joined with CTeens and NCSY to “work together, not compete. You can be in all of the groups, not just in one of them,” said Marks.
Each of the youth groups emphasizes leadership skills, and many of their events are teen-run initiatives. Marks added that “the purpose of this challah/babka bake was not just to meet other Jewish teens, but also to volunteer and help out the community.”
All the teens echoed the same sentiments – that making challah for seniors is a mitzvah and that it feels good to volunteer. It’s a nice perk, they said, that they also get to meet other Jewish teens, adding that they would “get the word out” to their friends.
Several teens from NCSY, including Neer, 16, Jessie, 17, and Romy, 16, also attended the challah and babka bake. They run Live to Give, a social action outreach program for the local NCSY chapter. One of their projects is to take homemade baking to Louis Brier Home and Hospital residents. One of the teens said, “For seniors who have no family, or very little, it’s special for them, and it brings a lot of light to their life.”
Members of the NCSY chapter also make and deliver food to people in Oppenheimer Park. “It’s a great opportunity to help out in the community and it’s very rewarding,” said the teen.