A COOKIE IS BORN

The Synagogue | Congregation B'nai Emunah has a long history of community involvement and service. In the summer of 2011, we decided to challenge ourselves to express our commitments in a new way. We had been working on a project at the Altamont Apartments, a facility operated by the Mental Health Association | Oklahoma, and felt that we could do more.

Enter the best chocolate chip cookie, ever. In late August, our rabbi, Marc Fitzerman, convened a group of pioneers and described his hope of establishing a commercial bakery at the Synagogue. The initial day of baking was Sunday, August 28. The first task for research and development: one chocolate chip cookie to rule them all. For an account of that fateful day, read here

The cookie that emerged is a Synagogue triumph. Based on a recipe refined by gifted baker, Nancy Cohen, it is the single best chocolate chip cookie we have ever made: a richly textured achievement that looks beautiful in its bag, with all its natural components--chocolate, brown sugar, oats, vanilla--in perfect balance.

But more important is the shape of the project that has grown up around it: a bakery that pairs talented Synagogue volunteers with intermittently homeless residents of the Mental Health Association facilities. They gather each week in the Synagogue kitchen to talk, exchange news, and bake their hearts out. Batch after small batch, they bake our cookies by hand. It's an artisanal effort with no industrial element. Week by week, our residents grow stronger and more skilled, learning the disciplines of production baking. We think that you'll taste the difference in each cookie.

And we know that you'll appreciate the benefits of this program. Residents of Mental Health Association facilities are our fellow citizens. Marked by the experience of homelessness and mental illness, they have frequently found it difficult to secure and hold consistent employment. Working in the bakery means new possibilities. Each one is building a resume for future work.

And because this is a real-world bakery, the residents are paid; all profits from cookie sales go first to Altamont residents and the purchase of raw ingredients. We are proud to say that this is not a fundraising project for the Synagogue. What does a salary check mean to a formerly homeless resident? Maybe the best way to say it is: you just can't imagine.

We currently bake our original chocolate chip cookies, Oatmeal Raisin Jumbles, and Sugartops, available in many fine establishments in Tulsa. Click here for a list of retailers or become a retailer yourself. Watch this site for future project introductions. When we're good and ready, we think you'll love our lemon-pistachio shortbread. After that, a brownie that will take your breath away. Did we say that we're serious about baking? You can believe it.




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