Members of both organizations benefit from monthly day of baking cookies for Shabbat.

Photos by Derrick Martinez

Once a month, the kitchen at Congregation Beth Shalom in Oak Park is a beehive of activity as members of Kadima Mental Health Services gather to bake cookies, assisted by women from the synagogue’s sisterhood.

The sisterhood pays Kadima $95 each month, which covers the cost of the ingredients and a small stipend for the bakers, who face mental health challenges. Sisterhood members then freeze the cookies to serve at kiddush after Shabbat morning service.

It’s an extension of a program developed at Kadima’s Southfield center, where members bake cookies and sell them in the gift shop.

Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield started using Kadima’s cookie-baking talents in 2016. The project was the brainchild of former Shaarey Zedek staffer Wren Hack, now director of Hazon Detroit. The Shaarey Zedek Sisterhood continues to bake cookies with Kadima.

Kadima Members Bake Cookies with Beth Shalom Sisterhood
Susan Friedman and Alicia Nelson, both Beth Shalom Sisterhood members, get ingredients ready.

Kadima Members Bake Cookies with Beth Shalom Sisterhood

“We enjoy these delicious cookies during our Shabbat lunch,” said Jeri Fishman, Shaarey Zedek president.

After learning about Shaarey Zedek’s program, Beth Shalom member Alicia Nelson of Southfield thought it would work well at Beth Shalom, too.

Kadima members engage in a meaningful activity and earn a little pocket money, and Beth Shalom congregants get to eat homemade-from-scratch cookies. “It’s a win-win,” Nelson said.

Molisia Young of Oak Park, Kadima’s activities coordinator, says the Kadima-baked cookies are better than store-bought. “They’re made with lots of love, and you can pronounce all the ingredients,” she laughed.

Kadima Members Bake Cookies with Beth Shalom Sisterhood
Kadima Activities Coordinator Molisia Young gets a tray from Janice Grahl, a Kadima baker.

Kadima Members Bake Cookies with Beth Shalom Sisterhood

Kadima Members Bake Cookies with Beth Shalom Sisterhood

Using Beth Shalom’s George and Murial Tarnoff Special Needs Fund, Nelson purchased two hand mixers, a half-dozen large baking trays and miscellaneous utensils for the project.
On a recent Wednesday, Kadima clients Geoff and Janice Grahl joined Nelson and sisterhood member Susan Friedman in the kitchen. Young supervised, but Geoff and Grahl knew exactly what to do.

First, they measured the ingredients into single-batch quantities; then they started mixing, one batch at a time. Before they were done, there would be five batches of chocolate chip cookies and three batches of oatmeal, each batch about three dozen cookies.

The oatmeal cookies, with white chocolate chips, orange zest and cranberries, “are like a party in your mouth,” Young said.

Cookie baking is one of many culinary arts activities available to Kadima members, she said. The activity center has a full kitchen and a hydroponic garden where they grow lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs year-round. Clients plan the menus and cook lunch every weekday.

Young says she and the other Kadima staff are continually looking for ways to enrich their members’ lives.

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Zest of 2-3 large oranges
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the oats and cranberries. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, with a mixer at low speed, beat the butter and the sugars until blended. Increase speed to high and beat until light and creamy. At low speed, beat in the eggs and vanilla extract; then fold in the oat mixture. Fold in the orange zest and white chocolate chips.

Drop the cookies by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart on ungreased large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

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