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Seeking a world record with a pretty big twist

New York Jewish community members have attempted to exceed the length of a 32-foot-long challah made by Grandma Moses Bakery in Australia, which broke a Guinness World Record in 2019.

A Jewish school enlists the support of a community in the attempt to beat an existing record and make the longest challah, Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.
A Jewish school enlists the support of a community in the attempt to beat an existing record and make the longest challah, Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

Members of the New York Jewish community are hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the lengthiest challah after making a 35-foot-long braided bread and submitting proof of their results to the organization that documents record-breaking results.

The effort by the Rodeph Sholom School, a part of Congregation Rodeph Sholom on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, was undertaken as part of the “Shabbat of Love”—a national event sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America to spread “love for the Jewish people at one of our darkest times.”

JFNA was the main driver of the challah initiative as part of “Shabbat of Love,” in partnership with the Orthodox Union.

Some 30,000 participants and more than 240 organizations participated in the Jan. 19 celebration of Shabbat.

World's Longest Challah
A Jewish school enlists the support of a community in the attempt to beat an existing record and make the longest challah, Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

Sarah Eisenman, chief community and Jewish life officer at JFNA, as well as a parent of a student at the Rodeph Sholom School, was the brainchild behind the endeavor. She was looking for an activity that would “bring Jewish pride and Jewish joy” on the day of the event, and “during a late evening of scrolling through articles found that there is a world record for the longest challah, and I knew we could surpass it.”

That record is currently held by Grandma Moses Bakery in Australia, which won the title in 2019 for making a 32-foot-long challah in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund-Australia.

As for the challenger, Eisenman enlisted help from the Orthodox Union, which arranged for the challah to be crafted and braided at Strauss Bakery in Brooklyn, N.Y. She visited the facility, saw the dough after it had been braided and recalled being amazed that the “baking crew actually pulled it off.”

From there, it was sent to the David’s Cookies factory in Northern New Jersey, which has ovens large enough to bake the massively oversized bread.

World's Longest Challah
Kids look on in amazement as a Jewish school enlists the support of a community in the attempt to beat an existing record and make the longest challah, Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Congregation Rodeph Sholom.

Once baked, the challah was loaded onto a 40-foot, 18-wheeler truck and delivered to Rodeph Sholom, where a group of 30 volunteers from all parts of the Jewish community spontaneously began singing “Am Yisrael Chai” as they carried the oversized item into the synagogue.

Parents and grandparents snapped pictures of the challah while the kids expressed their admiration. “They knew right away it was something special and that they were part of it,” said Eisenmann, adding that the finished challah was divided up and given to the families to enjoy.

“I had some of the challah, and it was great!” she said. “It was amazing that something so big, made by so many sets of hands, still kept the taste that we’d all expect.”

Summing up the experience, Eisenman said: “It was a simple and sweet embodiment of Jewish pride and love.”

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