Of Maimonides’ 8 levels of charity, the highest is giving someone a job. That way, he or she is no longer dependent on others.
The Jewish scholar died nearly 1,000 years ago. But he would be proud of the Crumb Together cafe.
He’d find its food fantastic too.
The newly opened bakery is the latest gift from Circle of Friends. That’s the very active, very cool group of more than 150 teens in Westport, Weston and nearby towns who spend at least one weekend a month with special needs children, teenagers and young adults.
Together, they do the usual friend activities: Play games. Bowl. Bake cookies.
That last activity is particularly important.
“Baking is always a favorite,” says Circle of Friends founder Freida Hecht.
“It’s a chance to socialize. It’s fun. It’s productive. Once you’ve baked challah or a chocolate chip cookie, you feel a sense of accomplishment and comfort. Plus, it tastes good!”
For 2 years Hecht, Circle of Friends supporters Bill and Andrea Pecoriello and others worked to open an actual bakery. Westport pastry chef Becca Nissim provided crucial culinary help.
The group found temporary space at Beth Israel synagogue, just over the border on 40 King Street in Norwalk. The not-for-profit bakery opened in April.
There, Circle of Friends members with special needs bake 3 varieties of challah, chocolate crumble cookies and snickerdoodles. Others help with packaging, sales, marketing and clean-up.
Job coaches help make Crumb Together a happy, social place. It’s as joyful as its play-on-words name is clever. (The tagline is cute too: “Always Rising.”)
As Crumb Together grows, Hecht hopes to add more bakers. She’s also looking for permanent space, with the dream of opening an actual cafe.
“This is amazing to see,” Hecht says. “These are not ‘special needs’ people. They have regular needs: employment, opportunity, compassion and friendship.”
Maimonides would agree. He’d really love the poppy seed challah too.
(A special ribbon-cutting, with Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, is set for November 1, 11 a.m., at Crumb Together, 40 King Street, Norwalk. Click here for the website.)