The Jewish Federation of Howard County’s Sixth Annual Great Challah Bake will be held virtually on Nov. 15.
Participants will watch a video about troubleshooting dough and learn some challah-braiding techniques. Afterward, they will go into breakout rooms to mix their ingredients, then play trivia games over Zoom. Lastly, they’ll go back to breakout rooms to shake out the dough and hang out.
The event-planning committee watched cooking demonstrations online and thought people could all bake challah together at home with their own ingredients, but they worried about the Zoom fatigue that comes with spending months interacting over a computer screen.
How could they attract people to this virtual event? Organizers decided breakout rooms were the answer.
Instead of having everyone staring at pages of tiny Zoom squares, they could join breakout rooms with their friends and family or people in their community.
“A lot of people missed the Jewish holidays with their families so we thought this would be a great opportunity,” said event co-chair Adrienne Goldstein, an Ellicott City resident and member of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia.
The breakout rooms came with some benefits. For example, while tables at the in-person events were limited to 10 people, this is not true of the virtual rooms.
Breakout rooms this year will include larger groups, such as synagogue sisterhoods and a Hebrew school second grade class.
Traditionally, the event has been geared toward women, according to Shauna Leavey, program director of the Federation.
“We’ve had requests for at least three years of how we might expand it to be more inclusive in the community,” she said.
“We’re really excited,” Leavey continued. “It’s a new creative way to engage in the community, and no matter who’s there, they’re gonna have a lot of fun. They’re gonna learn a little bit and they have the opportunity to hang out with their friends and family and make challah, which is gonna be delicious.”