Lia Barrow of HaMotzi Gluten Free baking in a commercial kitchen.
Lia Barrow of HaMotzi Gluten Free baking in a commercial kitchen.

How many gluten-free challah operations is there room for in the East Bay? At least two.

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

In September, we brought you word of a home-based, gluten-free challah business in the East Bay called Motzi Gluten Free, started by Chaya-Ryvka Diehl, who is also known as a raw, nondairy dessert chef. Well, apparently there’s enough demand for gluten-free challah in the East Bay that another baker/entrepreneur is giving Diehl a little friendly competition, and unbeknownst to either of them, chose a very similar name. Enter HaMotzi Gluten Free.

HaMotzi is the operation of Lia Barrow, who for years has provided baked goods and challah to Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, where she is a member. She has a son who is gluten-free and began perfecting her recipe to share with the Kehilla community, which has many gluten-intolerant members. She began fielding requests to bake extra for people to enjoy at home.

“It really came from the encouragement from members and my partner that I finally made this move,” she said.

Barrow also started the business as a way to stay connected with Kehilla members during the pandemic, delivering the loaves herself Friday mornings.

She bakes in a commercial gluten-free kitchen in Berkeley, and did big business over Hanukkah with sfenj, Moroccan-style fritters (a gluten-free version) — even bigger than her weekly challah orders, she said.

HaMotzi delivers mostly in Alameda County and offers white, brown rice and vegan challah, all fully gluten-free. Barrow is working on her oat recipe and hopes to be able to offer it soon.

While at first she was known only to the Kehilla community, “people are getting to know about me outside the community now. This might be bigger than I realized,” she said. “I hope by providing gluten-free challah, it will maybe encourage more people in their Shabbat practice.”

East Bay residents can order their challah at Barrow plans to start a subscription service soon.

In other challah news, Irving Greisman of Irving’s Premium Foods has begun offering online challah baking workshops to raise money for charity. In normal times, the challah maven and his wife, Mimi, would occasionally lead challah-baking workshops for preschoolers. She’d sing and entertain the kids, while he’d teach the kids how to braid their loaves.

The online workshops started after the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco asked Greisman if he would lead a workshop for a fundraiser. He wrote about it in his newsletter, and that led to another request from a Menlo Park customer. (Irving’s used to deliver mostly to Jewish institutions, but during the pandemic he is delivering directly to customers.) That event raised over $3,500, and the Jewish Bar Association raised over $5,000, also for the local food bank.

Irving Greisman leads an online challah workshop for charity.
Irving Greisman leads an online challah workshop for charity

Greisman does the workshops for free. He just shows up to teach, and the organization does the rest, he said.

Greisman is scheduled to be a guest on the Dec. 18 edition of Tiffany Shlain’s “Zoom Challah Bake,” a regular event the Marin-based filmmaker has been hosting since the pandemic started and featuring guest bakers from around the country. The event will be a fundraiser for the local food bank and Glide Memorial Church.

“I think it’s great and a mitzvah,” he said. “I take my hat off to anyone who’s trying to help others during this difficult time.”

Greisman can be reached through his website at

In July, we wrote about the desire of Mangia/Nosh founding chef and owner Robert Meyer to sell his business and retire. The Marin-based caterer was a favorite at many a Jewish lifecycle event over the decades. Meyer has found a buyer in one of his young employees, Jordan Cervetto, who has worked for the company for the past three years.

As Meyer noted in the July story, it is a terrible time to be selling any business, but especially one that is dependent on large-scale catered events.

Meyer has handed over the keys to Cervetto and started a GoFundMe page to help the new owner with starting costs such as rental deposit, insurance and inventory. Significant discounts on future catered events are offered in exchange for larger donations.

“We are trying to raise $25,000 by December 31, 2020 in order to keep the same great food and service that we have delivered for the past 30 years,” the page says.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."