The New Jersey-based Loffman sisters — Sara, 27, Marni, 24, Hannah, 22, and Eliana, 16 — are baking and selling challah to shine a light on racism, poverty, anti-Semitism and other injustices.
Meet the Challah Back Girls. Since early June they have been baking and delivering challahs every week and sending a portion of the proceeds to different social justice groups. To date, they have received more than 200 orders, baked more than 500 challahs, gone through at least 70 bags of flour and shipped the bread to more than 130 cities in 27 states. They also have received attention from a major NFL player.
“Challah Back Girls grew when we realized there were more cooks in the kitchen — literally,” the sisters wrote in an email to the Journal. “After weeks, we started to wonder how we could contribute to both epidemics plaguing our country: COVID-19 and anti-Black racism. It was important to us that the community send our money and support to organizations and communities who were leading the charge.”
The challahs are baked in their family kitchen, and while the business has not received an official hechsher, according to the Challah Back Girls’ website, the kitchen is strictly kosher, they use only pareve equipment and ingredients (which are nut free), and they bake while wearing masks and gloves.
Hannah started to bake consistently after Binghamton University canceled classes because of COVID-19. She and her sisters volunteered to donate challah to local potluck Shabbats. They also donated challahs to first responders and frontline workers who were working around the clock. In order to get the challah deliveries out on time, it was a case of all hands on deck (washed, of course).
Sara started “brainstorming marketing and outreach techniques” to get the word out. Marni’s “commitment to equity and improving quality of life for those around her” motivated the sisters to find causes outside the Jewish community. Eliana used her “Gen-Z perspective” to organize in innovative ways.
They created the @ChallahBackGirls Facebook page, which now has more than 10,000 followers and you can watch their baking updates on Instagram @WeLoffToTravel. They also created an easy-to-use order form on their website, where you can choose two challahs for $16. The choices are plain, Everything But the Bagel (A Trader Joe’s staple), coffee crumb or chocolate chip. Payments can be made through Venmo or CashApp. The challahs are delivered locally in Bergen County, N.J., and contact-free every Friday afternoon. If you want challahs delivered to Los Angeles (or anywhere else in the country), orders must be submitted by 9 a.m. EDT that Wednesday.
Among the organizations the Challah Back Girls have raised funds for are the Okra Project, which helps Black trans chefs cook healthy home-cooked meals; the Loveland Foundation, which provides essential therapy funds to Black women and girls; and Everyone Home DC, which provides housing solutions and support services to homeless families or those that run the risk of becoming homeless. Marni works full time for Everyone Home DC.
“We wanted to find a way to combine spreading the challah love each week while supporting the work being done right now to address discrimination, poverty [and] racism,” the sisters said.
But they aren’t just all about the challah. They also are die-hard Pittsburgh Steeler supporters and have season tickets. And yes, they do shlep seven hours each way to attend every home game. So, when they heard Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner condemn anti-Semitism on July 8, they knew exactly where to donate next. Since July 13, their proceeds have gone to Banner’s B3 Foundation.
“Zach Banner works to address critical social issues starting with youth empowerment, and has advocated for adding the Black Lives Matter decal to the Steelers’ helmet,” the sisters said. “He does this all while being one of the few non-Jews who spoke out against this recent wave of anti-Semitic rhetoric …. We are so excited though about the power of our movements when they see the intersection of all forms of prejudice and speak out against white supremacy whether it’s directed at Jewish people, Black people, Muslim people, Latinx people [or] trans/LGBTQ+ people.”
When the sisters told the B3 Foundation they would be sending a donation — and challah — to Banner’s foundation, the football player weighed in.
“These incredible women have used their passion and love to raise money for a lot of organizations, especially the ones who are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement,” Banner said in a Twitter video to his 44,000 plus followers on July 15. “This is gonna be my first time eating challah bread and I’m so excited. God Bless. Thank you, ladies!”
Banner also tasted challah for the first time this week. Watch his reaction here:
Sarah Bergstrom, vice president of B3 Foundation and an old friend of Banner’s, told the Journal she was thrilled the Challah Back Girls had chosen to support B3.
“In the middle of a pandemic with so much going on in the world, for them to spend hours and hours literally up till midnight baking, it’s been such a joy to watch and that they would donate some of their proceeds to us is an honor,” she said.
The Challah Back Girls said none of this would be possible without their parents, Clark and Caryn, who taught them the importance of challah baking, inclusion, hospitality and a well-working website. They hope customers enjoy breaking bread and go on to support their own communities.
“Though we are all very different, we share a love of people and cultivating deep empathy,” the sisters said. “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 …. Our name, Challah Back Girls, is as true to the bone (or dough) as it sounds: girls who give back through challah.”
You can learn more about the Challah Back Girls and order challah via their website.