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‘Got Challah’? Family Delivers Challah to Those in Need in San Fernando Valley

Making the most of quarantine, the Shorten family turned to challah-baking. They have dubbed their mitzvah project “Got Challah.” 
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July 28, 2020
Sophie taking the freshly baked Challot out of the oven.

Together with her 17-year-old daughter, Sophie, and 14-year-old son, Sammy, Gerilyn Shorten has been hand-delivering freshly baked challot to locals in the West San Fernando Valley — specifically to those who are “ill, elderly, alone or [working],” Shorten told the Journal. 

Making the most out of quarantine, the Shorten family turned to challah-baking near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in April. To date, they have delivered over 50 loaves. They have dubbed their mitzvah project “Got Challah.” 

After the Shorten children posted photos of their project on Facebook, more orders started coming in. With yeast and flour quickly vanishing from grocery stores, the family’s baking “became a hot commodity,” Shorten said. 

“We know a lot of people who aren’t well, and this [is] one way we [are] able to support them,” said Sophie, a rising senior at de Toledo High School. “When we break a piece off the challah and we burn it, we can say a prayer for them.”

She added, “Sammy and I are at a place where we have such little control … but there is something so healing in the very specific measurements and our process: the mixing, the folding, the waiting, the prayers and the braiding. But why should we keep it all to ourselves? This became a gift we wanted to share.”

Sammy, a rising freshman at de Toledo, added that baking provides him with the ability to focus. “It gives me something to do,” he said. 

“There is something so healing in the very specific measurements and our process: the mixing, the folding, the waiting, the prayers and the braiding. This became a gift we wanted to share.” — Sophie Shorten, 17

Shorten said she grew up in a home that never spent time baking challah, so she made it her mission to learn with her kids. She was finally able to get them on board by virtue of boredom getting the best of everyone. “I was always personally enthralled by [challah-making] from every angle, from the mitzvah to the praying to following it through Shabbat,” she said. “I really wanted to do that for my kids.”

The family has been working closely with lay leaders, including Brooklyn, N.Y.-based challah-baking expert rebbetzin Rochie Pinson, author of “Rising: The Book of Challah” and “The Rising Life: Challah Baking. Elevated.” 

“Knowing that we have a very stable and strong community and network has really gotten us through [this time],” Shorten said. “We really have so much unwavering, unconditional support. Between that, leading by example and continuing to do [mitzvot], we have to give back — that is the only way to stay grounded. It’s the only way that I think you can effectively ground your kids.”

The Shorten family. From left: Evan, Gerilyn, Sophie, and Sammy.

Leading by example enabled the Shorten kids to come up with the idea of “100 Challahs for Summer,” whereby they hope to reach their goal of 100 deliveries by the time they resume school on Sept. 3. 

Among those who have already received loaves thanks to Got Challah is a family whose toddler was hospitalized in the intensive care unit; families who have lost loved ones; and the elderly at high risk for contracting COVID-19. The Shortens hope to continue delivering challot when quarantine is over, even though it’s still not known when that will be.

“When we go in, we go all in,” Shorten said. “If it has legs, then absolutely, we will keep it running. I’m really, really proud of my kids. I’m so proud that they stepped in to work with me and really [took] initiative [to] just be together and focus when the world is spinning around us.”

For more information on receiving a challah donation, email sophshorten@gmail.com or visit Facebook.


Melissa Simon is a writer based in Los Angeles and a former Journal intern.  

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