The Loffman sisters have become synonymous in recent months for home-baked challah. But it’s not the texture or flavor that’s made headlines, but the money it’s raised for charity. Over the summer, the four (Sara, Marni, Hannah and Eliana) started Challah Back Girls, a project aimed at raising funds for organizations fighting anti-Semitism, racism and poverty. They sell their loaves at challahbackgirls.com.
Marni, 24, who is the second oldest, moved from the family home in Teaneck, N.J., to Washington in 2019 for the Avodah Justice Fellowship, in which she worked at Everyone Home DC to support homeless people. In September, after a trip home to bake challah, she began work as a street outreach specialist for Friendship Place, which works to end homelessness.
So how did Challah Back Girls come about?
My younger sister Hannah loves to bake. She’s been baking challah for the family for a while. And at the time we were back in Teaneck. I went home because it was almost Passover. And so now all the sisters were home. For the first time in a very long time, Hannah was baking. Our community was organizing a potluck to bring food to people that were working in the ambulance corps over the weekends. And so we wound up donating challahs to both this potluck for the ambulance corps and the ER doctors that were away from family.
And it kind of started to become really popular. People were hearing about our challahs and were asking if they could buy the challahs. And at the same time, a bunch of different things happened around anti-Black racial violence in the U.S. And so we started talking about maybe we can use this as an opportunity to raise money for different nonprofits and organizations that are doing work to confront racism in the U.S. and globally.
How much money have you raised so far?
On Sept. 21, it was over $20,500. Donated to 10 different organizations. Sent challah across 38 states. At that time it was 843 orders placed and almost 2,000 challahs.
Why do you think so many people have signed on to buy your challahs?
Jews across the country were really looking for ways to connect to this movement of anti-racism and find ways to support it. And at the same time there’s a deep desire to connect to tradition. It’s a lot easier to do it when there’s less effort. You just click on an Instagram link. You feel you’re doing something for the movement. And then you get to feel connected to the Jewish tradition, to this movement, to the bread without having to run around grocery stores and figure it out for yourself.
Have you taken anything away from your experience so far with Challah Back Girls?
Sometimes just starting something and going with it can be really powerful, and can be a really powerful way to build bridges in places you never thought that you would.
What do you see as the future of the project?
Yeah, that’s a great question. We really don’t know. We’re still talking. It’s kind of stayed alive and we’ve been able to shift so that it’s continuing to be doable. We’ve lowered the orders that we’ll take and we’ve made it that we’re fundraising for a month period instead of a week. It might stay steady like this for a little while as we go through different organizations that we’re supporting. We’re kind of letting the path teach us what we should do next. But as long as it’s serving communities, as long as it’s raising funds, as long as people are excited, we’re doing it.
How do you express your Jewish identity?
I express my Jewish identity personally through song. I love leading prayer because singing in Hebrew and singing Jewish melodies and creating new prayer has always been a way for me to feel grounded and connected. And then learning is my other way of expressing Jewish identity. Learning history, having intellectual conversations, text study, questioning, debating and finding wisdom from past texts. And then lastly, it’s also a source of community that I know will always be there for me no matter where I am in the world or what’s happening. That there are people that will show up for me because we’re connected. And that’s my dream for all of humanity.