Traditions Engraved in the Soul Come to Life at Subbotnik’s Challah Making Night

Sasha Krapivin busy making challah.
Sasha Krapivin busy making challah.

By Sarah Bendetsky

On Thursday, 30 July, close to 60 Russian-speaking Jewish people gathered for a Challah, Falafel, Music and Wine Night in Moorabbin.

Hosted by Subbotnik* and Kangarusski organisations and themed around Shabbat’s key symbols of challah and wine, the event offered an opportunity to learn how to make challah from scratch, listen to live music, and share a flavoursome dinner with old and new friends.

“It was a cold, rainy winter night and we were not even sure how many people would turn up,” said organiser Sasha Klyachkina. “Yet, people came with smiles on their faces. We ate, sang and laughed and then rolled up our sleeves and made challah for Shabbat together.”

Facilitated by Leah Greenbaum, the challah workshop was a truly uniting experience.

“For many of us, it was the first challah making in our lives,” said participant Natalia Pim.

“There was something magical about kneading the dough together with so many women, children and even a few men.

As a child, I missed the chance to learn challah baking from my grandmother and I always regretted that. I am excited to be able to carry on the tradition now and I think I will start making challah more often.”

Organiser Alona Krapivin said, “For over 7 decades, the Russian-speaking Jewish community has been deprived of practising Jewish lifestyle under Communism. Nevertheless, the memories stayed engraved in our souls.

The purpose of the Subbotnik project is simple and fundamental – to bring back the everlasting Jewish heritage and to spark up our souls, together with the glowing Shabbat candles and the irresistible aromas of freshly-baked challah.”

Guitarist Yehudah Bondar from Southern Cross Bard Ensemble entertained the crowd with heart-warming Jewish songs in Russian and Hebrew and winemaker Mark Sztar from Six Parallels South spoke about what makes wine kosher and delicious.

“I joined the Subbotnik event for the first time and was pleasantly surprised by its warm, informal environment,” said volunteer Alisa Guerchik. “I really hope that the Subbotnik team will continue to arrange similar events and will go from strength to strength!”

“I can’t agree more,” said participant Masha Zeleznikow OAM, recipient of 2015 Minister for Health Awards. “The Challah night was a tremendous success, uniting Russian-Speaking Jewish people to celebrate Jewish culture as one family. After more than 40 years of volunteering for Russian speakers in Melbourne, being a part of the Subbotnik event made me feel wonderful.”

Established in April 2015 by a group of volunteers, the Subbotnik events aim to celebrate Jewish-Russian cultural and spiritual heritage and to bring the community closer in the most inclusive way. To this day, the Subbotnik 3 Shabbat themed events brought together over 230 people, including infants, teenagers, singles, families and seniors.

“It’s not always easy to find time for volunteering; we all have busy schedules and have to work and support our families,” said Subbotnik’s Co-Founder Avi Bendetsky.

“But at the end, it comes to envisioning the big picture. By volunteering and sharing our skills and passions with our community, we help build strong foundations for our future and the future of our children. And kids learn values by seeing first-hand experience; there is no other way.”

As of now, the Subbotnik Organising Committee is planning its next function, which will take place in Sydney.

The Subbotnik team extends its gratitude to businesses, community organisations and volunteers for their kind support including: Rabbi Elisha and Leah Greenbaum, Sav Schulman Photography, Six Parallels South Winery, Sputnik 31 TV Channel, BAS N MORE Bookkeeping Services, Savion Cakes and Bagels, Margarita’s Loans and Finances, JustBlinds4u, Astoria Paper Products, ADI Immigration and Visa Services, Leonid and Inna Shisman, and others.

To find out more about Subbotnik visit the Subbotnik Facebook page.

* Subbotnik – a Russian term for volunteering action commonly held on Saturdays