By Hannah Loffman, as told to Sophia Vega
Challah Back Girls is a social justice initiative that was started by the Loffman sisters based out of Teaneck, NJ. Sara, Marni, Hannah, and Eliana bake and sell homemade Challah bread and donate the profits to a different social justice organization each week. With strong roots in their Jewish faith, the Loffmans use this to promote togetherness and the need to be unified within their product and organization's mission.
One sister, Hannah Loffman, is an incoming MSW student. We caught up with her to gain insight on her business and how it connects with her social work studies. Hannah reflects on the current events and her desire to become involved in social change, dismantle racism, and uplift the voices of marginalized groups.
She is pursuing the Management and Policy Concentration with an area of emphasis in Social Policy and a Certificate in Aging and Health.
Q: What prompted you to start you and your sisters’ new business venture, Challah Back Girls?
A: This initiative really began when COVID-19 forced me home during my final semester at SUNY- Binghamton. For as long as we can remember we baked challah with our mom growing up. I continued baking for our family with my sister Marni, who is famous in our household for her sourdough bread made from a 270 year-old culture, which originated across the country.
Given my love of baking (and growing quarantine boredom), I began baking challah for my family each week. Through family friends, we learned that the Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corps (BVAC) had traditional potluck Shabbat dinner and lunch every week, and we offered to contribute to their meals with challot. During the peak of the pandemic, we then expanded our efforts and brought challah to healthcare and frontline heroes working day and night, and felt it was the least we could do for those putting their lives on the line.
After weeks of preparing challah to give away, we started to wonder how we could contribute to both epidemics plaguing our country: COVID-19 and anti-black racism. As protests erupted around the country, and our own town of Teaneck was challenging how racism still exists in our community, we realized the importance of supporting the movement in the ways we could like attending protests and donating to organizations.
Challah Back Girls then grew when we began receiving inquiries about purchasing our challah, which to us didn’t feel right to sell. We wanted to find a way to combine spreading the challah love each week while supporting the work being done now to address discrimination, poverty, and racism. We decided to start selling the challot and donating all of the profit we made each week to a different organization promoting social justice and supporting at-risk or disenfranchised communities. The four of us saw it as an opportunity to each contribute something unique while working towards the same goal.
Q: Can you share the significance of challah bread to Jewish religion and culture – how does this connect to your families social justice work?
A: The symbol of challah is powerful. After creating the dough, and ritual separating out and burning a small piece of it, one engages in the practice of braiding. In taking these different strands of dough, crafted in isolation and unifying them, we are reminded of the powerful ways that our human beings are also enmeshed with each other, inevitably connected, while also maintaining our unique experiences and histories. In this moment of social change, awakening us to how our lives are literally all connected, yet impacted uniquely by race, class and our histories.
We chose to donate all of our profit to social justice organizations, because we are living through an unprecedented time, fraught with uncertainty, anxiety, and a need for creativity, thoughtfulness, and resilience. Reflecting on mine and my sister’s Jewish upbringing, we recognize how entwined we are as a people; individuals and communities alike. We are entirely impressed, and feel blessed, by how much people love this initiative and care so deeply about standing in solidarity to advocate for social justice issues.
Q: As a new MSW student, how has your current entrepreneurial spirits efforts already taught you about the importance of serving our communities?
A: I come from a long line of ancestors, up until me and my sisters, who enjoy conversations with strangers, listening deeply to people’s life stories, and showing up in the ways people ask us to. As a house of “people persons,” we have always been acutely aware of the way people are interconnected, and the power we have to hurt and heal one another. This project is one way to learn more about the amazing work organizations across the country are doing to deepen our capacity to humanize and support each other. The hope is that people will learn about the strengths that exist in our country currently impacting the wellbeing of real people, and feel inspired to contribute and support these organizations as well.
As people, we need to highlight the power of coalition building and of fighting for freedom through joining arms and lifting up each other’s communities. We must think globally and act locally, and the hope is that Challah Back Girls is able to bring that to your table while touching the lives of those in need of healing and strengthening. I look forward to deepening my understanding of the importance of serving our communities, and continuing to bake the world a better place, through my time as an MSW student.