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    UMass students build bridges by baking bread

    UMass Amherst fraternity members will bake challah at the college’s Chabad Jewish Student Center this Wednesday, distributing the braided bread to local seniors in assisted living centers while promoting Jewish pride on a campus marred by anti-Semitism.

    In recent weeks, carvings of swastikas appeared around campus and, on March 25, hackers sent hate-filled anti-Semitic flyers to the university’s printers and fax machines. Several schools around the country were targeted.

    Student center director Yocheved Rivkah Adelman said she hopes the upcoming mass baking session, part of the “Helping Hands” program, will help the Amherst community heal, bridging the gap between students of all religious backgrounds as well as between older and younger generations.

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    “There’s been a great deal of shock on the part of the Jewish students,” she said, acknowledging a collective “realization that we need to bring this message of unity of sharing, that maybe we had taken for granted, back to the table.”

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    Adelman created the program in 2011 as a way to further student interactions with the Amherst senior community.

    “The initial motivation was the passing of my mother,” said Adelman. “She had spent the last 10 years of her life in a nursing home, and one of the highlights of her day was when young people would visit and show that they were so involved in the senior community. When she passed away, I wanted to make some fitting tribute that would continue that giving spirit and community involvement that the young people had shown her.”

    Student interest in Helping Hands events has been significant, said Adelman, who noted that Greek organizations have ranked among the many campus groups on the list to participate. Members of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity, are slated to take part in this Wednesday’s workshop.

    Late last month, Helping Hands gathered students to bake cookies for the Jewish holiday of Purim known as hamantaschen and distribute them to local nursing homes.

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    “There are too many times when we’re gathering to protest negative things,” said Adelman. “And while that’s important, it’s also important to gather to participate events like this, that show joy and happiness and caring.”

    Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com.