Marni: I came to DC in August of 2019 and I was looking to move to a new city and do work centered in equity and justice, translating a lot of the things that I had studied in my work in cultural anthropology and religion. I went to Wesleyan and wanted to feel a sense of continuity with the socially-engaged work that I had done in school into my day-to-day after graduating. So, I joined Avodah and worked in homelessness services as a street outreach worker and continued working in that field following my Avodah Fellowship.
I also just love DC. I joined a Jewish acapella group and have enjoyed exploring and being a part of New Synagogue Project and Nigun Collective. And I’ve been able to work on issues around housing equity that I’m really passionate about. So that’s what brought me to DC and what has kept me so far!
Marni: I really care about people feeling empowered and connected to themselves and having the dignity for their own humanity that everyone deserves. Systemic issues like racism, classism, and poverty are terribly dehumanizing systems that strip that humanity from people. I also worked in education for many summers in college, so I’ve been involved in the intersection of social justice, spirituality, education, and identity work for a while now.
NeighborFood Meals and Challah Back Girls Virtual Event
Marni: For my dream day, I would wake up early and take a walk down Florida Avenue and enjoy a coffee at Emissary while I sit and journal. Then I would walk back home and grab my bike and head over to a car-free part of Beach Drive to ride along Rock Creek, picking up the trail and biking all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. I’d then sit outside at the memorial with a book and maybe talk to some strangers before meeting up with a friend on the Mall to do yoga and play guitar on the grass.
Then I would stop by the Portrait Gallery before meeting a friend for a drink at Lapis, and then I’d go out dancing at Madam’s Organ to hear some live music. I’d end the night with Amsterdam Falafel and talking to friends until late in the night.
Marni: I went back home around the start of the pandemic last year and my sister, Hannah, was baking a lot of challah. At the same time, my parents and sisters and I were processing what was happening in the world and the racism and racial reckoning that the country was going through. At the same time, I was working on my own music and posting about it more than ever before to Instagram and as that was happening, I became very tuned into the conversations happening on the platform around race and racism and identity.
My sister was continuing to bake challah during all of this and people began asking to buy the challah. We decided that with so much happening in the world, what if we sold the challah and donated the money to different organizations? What would that look like? Who would we donate to? And so we started to bake more challahs as a family and raise money for social causes we cared about. Now we have an organization called Challah Back Girls.
How the magic starts (aka buying all the flour)
For us, it was really a commitment as a family to learn more and proactively find organizations that are doing important, meaningful work and find ways to uplift them and share their story through our love of baking challah.
It all kind of picked up when Zach Banner from the Steelers agreed to collaborate. Everyone in my family is a huge Steelers fan, by the way! He runs a small non-profit out of Pittsburgh that we were interested in supporting and a lovely partnership grew out of that. He posted a photo of himself eating challah and that really boosted our publicity.
Since then we’ve donated to a bunch more organizations including the conscious kid, B3 Organization, The Okra Project, A.S. Black Women’s Health Collaborative, The Color of Autism Foundation, and more. Since last year, we’ve raised more than $75,000 and baked thousands and thousands of challahs in our kitchen.
True Steelers fans!
Marni: We do a lot of research on our own as a family, but we also have a nominations process. You can nominate an organization right on our website, too!
Marni: I am more the idea-generator, thought-partner, content creator in the family. And when I’m home, I’m the challah packer. I will sit on the couch and tape up tons and tons of cardboard boxes to send out the challahs. No one wants me in the kitchen!
I can definitely make an awesome sourdough, but I don’t have the artistry to make challah at all. My sisters are really the experts there.
Marni packing boxes
Marni: Yes, my sisters really play a huge role in the organization. They live at home and they make the challahs on a regular basis. Sara, Hannah, and Eliana are my sisters and they are currently all living at home and they really have taken this idea and made is blossom.
The Loffman sisters in masks
Marni: Yes, we now ship to all 50 states!
Blue & white Hanukkah special
Marni: I love talking about and exploring Jewish identity, education, and music. I am currently designing a Moishe House retreat on song as prayer and innovative prayer writing. I see it as a weekend to explore music as medicine. Starting in the fall, I’ll be beginning a program at Hartford Theological Seminary – an interfaith, pluralistic seminary – focused on international peace building with a small cohort of people from different faith backgrounds. We’ll get to explore things like restorative justice, peace and violence and sacred text, and inter-religious studies.
Marni: I love the biking culture. I love going out with DC Bike Party so much. I do wish DC had more of a creative underground, but I do really love the city overall.
Marni: A walk! I definitely can’t get through the day without a nice walk.
Sara, Marni, and Hannah making challah back in the day!
Marni: …they join with their Black and Brown and Queer neighbors to push for more equity in the city.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.