The recent clatter of pans and oven racks, accompanied by laughter and the enticing smell of homemade bread are signals that the Jewish High Holy Days are near at Emanuel Synagogue, 900 NW 47.
Since late July, members of the Emanuel Sisterhood women's group have been preparing for the holidays by baking dozens of loaves of round challah bread in the synagogue's kosher kitchen.
Challah in Hebrew means “loaf.” It is traditionally eaten on the Jewish Sabbath. However, during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the bread dough is traditionally baked in the shape of a form of a circle to symbolize the desire for a new year that rolls around smoothly, without sorrow.
Rosh Hashana begins at sundown Sept. 16 and continues until sundown Sept. 18.
Amy Settles, the chairwoman in charge of the sisterhood's holiday baking, said the group bakes the bread for the Oklahoma City metro Jewish community because there is no kosher Jewish bakery in the area. She said the group takes orders for the traditional round challah like plain, poppy seed, sesame seed and raisin. Nontraditional flavors like cinnamon sugar and chocolate chunk (filled with chocolate chips) are offered as well.
Settles said the group typically takes about nine daylong sessions to complete all their orders. She said they hoped to have their last baking session in the coming week. They aren't taking any more orders for this year.
On a recent weekday, Settles was joined by sisterhood members Eleanor Miller, Brenda Hooper, Lisa Slater, Debra Wolraich and Lily Martin-Talebi in the Emanuel kitchen. Rita Pack, the synagogue's longtime kitchen supervisor, also joined in the baking session.
Settles said the sisterhood sold more than 300 loaves for Rosh Hashana last year and hoped to do as well this year.
“That was our best year,” she said.
The women worked to weigh the dough so that each challah loaf would weigh the same. The dough was kneaded, rolled out and then formed in the shape of a circle. An egg wash was brushed over each loaf to give them a glossy sheen when baked. Hooper, in charge of the oven for the day, placed the bread in a pair of ovens, rotating them once and taking them out when a timer indicated that the baking was complete. The loaves are then placed in the synagogue's freezers to await pickup.
Abby Jacobson, Emanuel's rabbi, said many Jews drizzle honey over their challah bread to symbolize their wish for a sweet new year. That practice goes hand in hand with the tradition of eating apples and honey during Rosh Hashana, which will mark the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days.
The holidays continue with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, at sundown Sept. 25 and continues to sundown Sept. 26.