Sisterhood discovers that if you bake it, they will come

Mary Okada, left, and Jerilynn Payne at Beth Shalom Sisterhood’s Oct. 24 pie-baking event.
Photo by Mary Dalnekoff

When the Sisterhood of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia came up with the idea to hold a pie-baking event that could double as a fundraiser, they expected one or two dozen orders for pies. Instead they received orders for 70 pies, stretching the event from one day to two to give the bakers enough time to fulfill all the requests. That was in 2018.

“Our pie baking is both a social programming activity and a fundraiser,” said Eve Klein, who leads Sisterhood pie baking events with Irva Nachlas-Gabin.

Klein said that the Sisterhood discovered long ago that baking and cooking are among the best ways to build community.

“For years, Sisterhood has held cooking classes and they’ve always been really popular,” she said. “And even people who feel like they don’t have a connection to the synagogue or to other Sisterhood members … will come out to a cooking event.”

The Sisterhood has been holding baking events for the past 20 years, Klein said, often having a hamantashen baking in the spring. It was not until 2018 that the Sisterhood had the idea to do a fundraiser around pies in the autumn.

The most recent pie events took place on Oct. 24 and Nov. 14. The events are open to people of all skill levels, including people who have never baked in their lives. Those who are new to it might peel dozens of pounds of apples while learning how to make crumb pies and making a few friends along the way, Klein said.

In past years, volunteers crowded into Beth Shalom’s dairy kitchen for the baking, Klein said. This year, though, volunteers were spaced out in the congregation’s social hall, where the pies were prepared before being brought to the oven for baking.

In addition to the social distancing precautions, attendees also had to be masked, Klein said. Like all of the Sisterhood’s fundraisers, money raised by the event will support the synagogue, Klein said.

“Throughout the afternoon it’s a lot of work,” Klein said. “But it’s a lot of fun, because there’s a lot of talking, a lot of back and forth, getting together with old friends, meeting new friends. It’s a great social outing for people.”

“We share stories, we gossip, we talk about our kids, we talk about our husbands,” said Nachlas-Gabin, who added that “sometimes the husbands are there, they talk about their wives. We’ve had a few men come.”

Klein noted that people have an easier time connecting with strangers when going to an event that has an activity.

“We kind of bond over the sugar and apples.”

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