RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — When Michael Sachs went to his favourite Richmond bakery to buy Challah bread two weeks ago he didn’t plan on walking out with 17 loaves.
It is customary for Jewish families to have two loaves of Challah — a braided egg bread — on the table at Shabbat dinners which happen every Friday night, Sachs explains.
“A couple weeks ago my wife and I discussed it, and we decided it was really important for our family to have Challah on our Shabbat table,” he says, adding that one part of the Shabbat ritual involves blessings made over the bread.
Sachs says, amid the pandemic, the weekly ritual of sitting down on Friday evenings to share food, unplug all electronics, and catch up on the past week has been a crucial, comforting way that his family comes together.
“That connection helps us, for lack of a better word, escape the reality in which we’re all living right now, which is this really weird, surreal, and in many cases difficult reality,” he says.
“We can sit down and unplug from everything. Also, it gives your family an opportunity to talk about what is going on and allows your kids to be able to express what it is that they’re feeling.”
When he was standing in line at Garden City Bakery two Fridays ago it occurred to him that other families may feel the same, and he decided to enlist his kids to help him offer COVID-safe Challah delivery to other families who may be limiting shopping trips, or otherwise unable to make it to the bakery.
“If we can help bring those families to their dinner table for Shabbat –to eat over that Challah, share that Challah– and for that to help them rise above what we’re going through, this is the least we can do as a member of our community,” he says.
So, the family donned masks and gloves and the 15 extra loaves were delivered in Richmond.
“I believe it’s important to get out there, roll up your sleeves, and do community work. I also saw it as a teaching moment for my kids that when we take it upon ourselves we can really inflict a major change in people’s outlook during this really difficult time.”
The following Friday, Sachs and his kids delivered 40 and expanded their reach to include Coquitlam, and Port Coquitlam.
“It’s such a small thing in the scope of everything to just pick up some bread, drop it at someone’s door, send them a text message after and be like, ‘Hey there’s a Challah at your door for you, Shabbat Shalom (which means have a peaceful Shabbat, a peaceful rest). To do that in a regular day it would be nothing, but now it brings a lot to those homes.”
Among the people who took Sachs and his kids up on their offer was a woman from Ontario whose parents live in B.C.
“With social media we can reach so far that someone who lives in another part of Canada sees it and is like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is an opportunity to get my parents Challah today’.”
Sachs footed the bill for the bread and says the expense didn’t cross his mind even though his income, like many others’, has taken a hit recently.
“I didn’t even think about the financials, about how much it would end up costing. We just said that this is something we wanted to do, and we felt that it was something that was needed, and now it seems to be taking off.”
Now, community organizations the Kehila Society of Richmond and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver are getting involved to help fund the initiative and expand its reach. And a beloved local bakery is getting a big boost in business.
People, including B.C.’s Housing Minister Selina Robinson, have been asking Sachs how they can get involved as volunteers and expand the safe delivery service into their neighbourhoods.
“We just kind of wanted to do something fun with the kids to teach them about being leaders and rolling up their sleeves and it’s just really gone amazing,” Sachs concludes.