Sharrone was like the Chuck Norris of Temple Sinai–she was the sort of Hebrew school director who changed the very definition of “badass.”  She worked so fast and so efficiently, she made time stand still. And curtsey. And say please and thank you. 

Her clipboarded to-do lists were always already half completed by the time people showed up to Hebrew school on Sunday mornings, her employees were always prepped, her newsletters were always sent out early, and her challah was always delicious. 

The woman actually baked two loaves of challah for each Hebrew school class every single week so that they could have it with their grape juice for snack. I kid you not. She was a wonder to behold. 

And when she had me deliver the challah and juice to each classroom weekly, her directions were clear, precise, and kindly spoken. “JoJo, love, make sure you do a quick head count before preparing snack–for the older grades, you can just give them a bottle of grape juice with the right number of cups, but for the younger ones, the teachers don’t have time to pour each cup, so pour the right number of cups for them ahead of time and put them on the platter, remembering one extra for the teacher. Also, pour less juice into each cup for the kindergarteners; they shouldn’t have too much sugar. And please use the nicer platters for the challah if possible; we want to teach about Hiddur Mitzvah. Thanks love, you’re so great at this!”

I was her assistant for a year in college, and I learned more from that part time job than I did from most professors I had. For instance, I didn’t think it was possible to actually get everything right on a daily basis until I met Sharrone. In my own family, things were hectic and there was a lot of yelling involved just to make dinner happen for four people. Sharrone, on the other hand, made tu b’shvat seder lunch happen for an entire Hebrew school without batting an eye. She was graceful and smart and funny and kind, and the hems of her skirts always floated magically a few inches above the floor without ever getting dirty. Did I mention she had two children under five years old? 

I realized while working for her that Sharrone belonged to a certain class of superwomen who made everything happen, all while dancing backwards and wearing high heels. I didn’t know exactly what to call this type of woman besides The Woman Who Bakes the Challah, so that’s what the designation became known as in my mind. When I grew up, I wanted to be A Woman Who Baked the Challah, in whatever career I had. I wanted to be efficient, I wanted to be superhuman–I wanted to bake. 

As the years have gone by, “The Woman Who Bakes the Challah” has remained in my head as designating a very important category of people, regardless of gender. These Challah Bakers are the volunteer staff who chair committees. They’re working parents who still participate in community, they’re retirees who just can’t retire, they’re Hillel presidents in college, they’re nonprofit organizers. The Challah Bakers of the world are good, like a bear-hug, or a glass of water, or sunshine after a long winter. They are good, and they are never paid what they’re worth, because it’s impossible to pay for love. 

So here’s to The Women Who Bake the Challah, regardless of gender and culinary ability. Your love nourishes the community–and the world. 

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