Cayla Noorani (above right, with her friend Rachel) is an exceptional cook, and has turned that skill into support for her favorite charitable cause: Gift of Life’s registry of blood stem cell and marrow donors.
“I joined the registry in 2019 at the Iranian American Jewish Federation,” said Cayla. “I was going to have dinner with my sister Amelia and she said, ‘There’s a challah bake, let’s go and we’ll have dinner afterwards.’ There were two representatives from Gift of Life inviting people to join the registry. I said of course I would swab my cheek and join, and that was that.” At a challah bake, a group of people get together to make this distinctive Jewish braided loaf traditionally eaten on Shabbat and major Jewish holidays.
Cayla enjoyed baking so much she continued on with it, and began to wonder how she might be able to use it for a charitable project.
“Everyone says that the loaves Amelia and I make are amazing, so I thought I wanted to sell them for donations,” said Cayla. “For the longest time I tried to decide who to donate to, then this past summer I went on Birthright Israel. Every morning our mentors would come around with the tzedakah box (for making charitable donations) and urge us to carry this practice with us when we got home. Then someone made a presentation about Gift of Life, and it seemed like the right moment when this organization came back into my life.”
Cayla decided to give her profits to Gift of Life, to help add more donors to the registry and save more lives.
“Amelia and I played around with some recipes and experimented a bit to come up with the best ones we could,” said Cayla. “I posted on Instagram about our challahs for charity, and it just took off. Some weeks I make 15 or so for shabbat on Friday, and one week I had 36 orders!”
“My sister and I also hosted a baking session between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” she said. “We got some friends together on our patio and all worked together. You never known where life is going to go, I’ve always been passionate about cooking, and my parents always say everything is delicious. I just love experimenting with recipes, making up my own, and it’s such a great hobby, it lets me disconnect from life’s stress and focus on something I really love to do.”
Although Cayla is working on Fridays right now – making it hard for her to prepare bread for shabbat – she’s planning to graduate from college a semester early, which will free up more of her time.
“I hope this inspires others to do charitable work as well, and take something they love and make something good come out of it,” she said. “By using my baking talent to give back, I also give others the opportunity to support charity when they buy the loaves – they are giving money to Gift of Life as well, all of which helps save lives.”
Cayla is a senior at Hunter College, and is applying to graduate school to study speech and language pathology. She works with children who have speech challenges and plans to make that her career. Besides her charity work, she also enjoys spending time with her family and friends, tennis, playing with her dog, and educating herself – she loves to read.
Thank you, Cayla, for turning your creativity and talent toward saving the lives of patients seeking their matching donors.