By Deb Silverthorn
Rabbi Sholom Block’s recipe for success is a pinch of brachot stirred with the seasons of life. He is the hands, heart and host of The Challah Shoppe, which bakes challahs and rolls, and delivers them around the community each Friday.
After a 2020 visit during Sukkot to his in-laws in Birmingham, Alabama, where his wife was raised, Block was inspired by The Challah Shoppe at the Chabad of Alabama kitchen.
“I came home thinking it was possible here,” said Block. He sells between 100 and 130 loaves most weeks; for Rosh Hashanah, he sold more than 400. “The Challah Shoppe is a new way to attract and meet Jews, to strengthen already existing relationships and to bring people into Chabad who might not otherwise come by.
“We started in our home kitchen with a small mixer … it’s really amazing,” said Block, director of Chabad of Allen and McKinney. His first pickup place was the Blue House Too gallery at the Watters Creek Mall in Allen. “We walked in and said we were a small nonprofit, as are they, and would they share a booth with us? They did and it’s still one of our regular pickup sites.”
Baked now in the kitchen of Chabad of Plano/Collin County (COP), the shul in which Block was raised, the challahs are also available for pickup each Friday afternoon there. Other locations where they can be picked up include Blue House Too Gallery at Watters Creek in Allen, Chabad of Frisco, Chabad of Plano/Collin County, Chabad of Rockwall, Gan Menachem Dallas, Cheder Lubavitch Dallas and Intown Chabad. Each week COP’s Gan Gani preschool students go home with fresh challahs and, during the summer, COP’s Gan Izi summer campers do too.
The Challah Shoppe’s order form opens each Wednesday morning online at challahshoppe.com. There are offerings of plain, sesame and at least one specialty challah. The rotating specialty flavors, all pareve but cooked in a kosher meat kitchen, include sweet or chocolate crumble, funfetti sprinkles, monkey challah, everything but the bagel, pretzel, chocolate/cinnamon, pistachio/honey, jalapeño and garlic/herb.
Block is in the kitchen each Friday morning before 5:30, mixing and prepping, allowing enough dough for eight batches to rise. By the time the morning’s minyan is over at 8, the challah is ready to be braided.
“I’ve known him since he was a teenager, and now he’s a rabbi and he works so hard. He really is the blood, sweat and all of it. It’s a pleasure to work alongside him,” said Dr. Velvel Kantor, an emergency trauma surgeon who most weeks volunteers to braid the loaves. “I really love our time together in the kitchen. We talk challahs but we talk a lot of Torah and other Jewish subjects. He’s absolutely wonderful to talk to and learn from.”
Block has assembled a volunteer crew. Kantor helps with the braiding, Spencer Meador helps rolling out the dough and prepping, Frimad Horn bags the orders, Lenny Cruz helps pack up and distribute to waiting customers.
“I pick up my orders at Chabad of Frisco, and it’s always good to see Mushkie and Rabbi Kesselman,” said John Rosenthal, who knows Shabbat is coming when he picks up his order each Friday afternoon. Between two and six loaves always make their way home with him. His family’s favorites include the garlic, cinnamon raisin and the sweet crumble.
“Of course, we eat it for Shabbat, but there’s always enough left for French toast. Our favorite is to make grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s so good,” said Rosenthal, who shares his table with his son Jacob and his father Gary. “I only found Rabbi Block this summer but I’m so glad I did.”
Marla Zack’s parents, Richard and Linda Last, have been involved with Chabad of Plano/Collin County since Block was a boy so she’s watched him grow since childhood.
“The challahs are absolutely delicious. There’s nothing like the pretzel one — it’s just awesome,” said Zack. Her husband Eric and sons Daniel and Gregory also very much enjoy the everything but the bagel. “The online ordering is so easy and the pickup so convenient. I buy for us, I buy for my parents — it’s just really yummy.”
A Plano native who grew up in the shul of his parents, Rivkie and Rabbi Menachem Block, Block is the brother of Rabbi Eli (Sara) Block, Mushkie (Rabbi Mendy Kesselman), Chanala (Rabbi Moishy Kalmenson), Shmulie, Nechama, Bassie and Devora Block.
“The community I grew up in was wonderful to me when I was a child and now as well,” said Block. “It’s so nice to be back, to be home and to now have so many people supporting us.”
After attending Akiba Yavneh Academy through the seventh grade, Block went to yeshivot in New Jersey; Connecticut; Brooklyn, New York; and Melbourne, Australia, before earning smicha, ordination, in Jerusalem. He returned to the United States and taught in New Haven, Connecticut, before his return to Plano.
Almost five years ago, he married Chaya Friedman; they are the parents of Bina and Aizik. The couple started their married life on the East Coast but moved to Plano in 2019 as directors of COP’s Camp Gan Izi. Together they lead Chabad of Allen and McKinney, with learning and holiday programming, and Chaya teaches in the preschool at COP’s Gan Gani. Their third annual Grand Chanukah Menorah lighting at Watters Creek Mall is scheduled for Dec. 22.
“We are very proud of Sholom and excited about how The Challah Shoppe has transformed our building on Fridays,” said Rabbi Menachem Block. “From early in the morning until the afternoon, the wafting of delicious smells and the spirit of Shabbat in the air meets the streams of people who come through to pick up their orders.
“This has given us the opportunity to meet people who have never been here, to have men put on tefillin — some for the first time ever — and to give out Shabbos candles,” said Rabbi Menachem Block. “We have opened another door to connect our community to Torah, to Shabbos and to ourselves and it’s very special.”
To place an order, Wednesdays through Fridays, visit
challahshoppe.com. For bulk orders, email