(L-R) Seniors Emily Butler and Helena Harris pour salt into their challah dough. Photo: Sloane Wagreich

At the start of the 2019 school year, students in the Pace Academy Upper School gathered together to form Pace’s first Jewish Affinity Group. This group is aimed at uniting Jewish students throughout the Upper School and giving them a space to converse and connect with people that practice Judaism. From weekly meetings to lunches with a local rabbi, students have been exposed to a variety of opportunities to further embrace their religion in the Pace community.

Last semester, the group hosted a Shabbat dinner for its members. Shabbat dinners are typically held on Friday evenings after sundown at the beginning of the Jewish sabbath that extends through Saturday at sundown. Students divided up by grade to celebrate Shabbat in four of their peers’ homes on Oct. 24, 2020. The night included prayers over the candles led by students, along with challah and grape juice. Challah is a traditional bread that is usually made with white flour and is typically braided. The night included a group dinner in which students contributed challah, brisket and a variety of desserts.

“It was a great experience because for the first time since I’ve been at Pace, I was able to congregate with all of the Jewish students in my grade and share a Shabbat dinner with them,” said senior Casey Shoulberg. “It was nice to be surrounded by my Jewish peers, even if it was only for a night; however, I am looking forward to the Shabbat we have scheduled for this semester [on April 9].”

In addition to the Shabbat dinners, the group gathered for a challah baking event at junior Mollie Meyerowitz’s house on March 20. Students each had their own bowl accompanied by ingredients such as yeast, flour, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. They learned the techniques in making the perfect challah dough. After a few minutes of mixing and folding, the dough was wrapped up and sent home with each student to rise for a few hours to then be baked.

Additionally, students had the opportunity to practice how to braid challah and taste test some “everything bagel seasoned” challah as well as chocolate chip challah. Mollie’s mom, Jennifer Meyerowitz, expressed gratitude for this club, saying that “the Jewish Affinity group has been a great way for my kids to not only share some fun Jewish events, foods and volunteerism with other Jewish kids at Pace, but it has also increased awareness in the Pace community of other religions and cultures. I love that a lot of my kids’ friends, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, want to eat some of our Challah bread… It shows that they are talking about it together, sharing new foods and learning about new cultures at school. This will make all the kids more educated and more understanding of others and our differences.”

Although this is only the club’s second year at Pace, there is more to come. The Jewish students at Pace have embraced this opportunity to get involved with their community and connect with each other. 

Top image: Students pose with different types of challah after their taste test. Photo: Robert Kaufman

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