“Any idea that comes to mind on Lag BaOmer will be successful.” That’s what Sara Armet, a fashionista and luxury personal shopper from Manhattan’s chic Upper East Side, heard at a Lag BaOmer event she attended last year with the community she considers herself a member of: Chabad Young Professionals UES.

“Attended” is a loose term, as the event was virtual, each member in their own living room connecting with each other over Zoom. In lieu of the traditional Lag BaOmer bonfire, prior to their gathering they had collected the ingredients necessary for s’mores—those gooey, chocolatey graham-cracker sandwiches that somehow only make sense fireside—and assembled them together over Zoom.

The rabbi, Yosef Wilhelm, and his wife, Devorah, were hosting the event from a quarantine house up in the Catskills and much to their chagrin, they were minus one key ingredient—chocolate. Apologizing for the oversight, the rabbi and his wife instructed everyone over the virtual screen how to make the s’mores, chocolate or no chocolate.

“That night, a light bulb went off in my head,” Armet told Chabad.org. “I was thinking; how could we have left out the chocolate? And all of a sudden, I thought, ‘Of course, chocolate! That’s what we need.’ Right then and there, I decided I was going to make chocolate and share it with people to bring a little cheer to everyone during this crazy lockdown. I hatched this idea on Lag BaOmer, so I just knew it was going to be a hit.”

And thus, the seed for her own luxury chocolate brand was born. Fast-forward a year later with Lag BaOmer around the corner, to be celebrated from the evening of Thursday, April 29, through Friday, April 30. To mark the origins of her project to sweeten the lives of her community in a difficult year, the Chabad Young Professional of the UES community is planning to gather together in a socially distanced way and celebrate Lag BaOmer. And, of course, there will be a lot of chocolate. In fact, there will be kosher chocolate-making, compliments of Armet and her chocolate designs.

A Passion Turns Into a Community Effort

When Rabbi Yosef and Devorah Wilhelm celebrated the bat mitzvah of their daughter Mushka, Armet was there with her chocolate, making artisanal bark chocolate that featured women in Jewish history.
When Rabbi Yosef and Devorah Wilhelm celebrated the bat mitzvah of their daughter Mushka, Armet was there with her chocolate, making artisanal bark chocolate that featured women in Jewish history.

Armet describes her journey from causal participant to deeply invested community member and how that brought her chocolate passion to fruition.

“I had been involved with Chabad YP of the UES for some time, but it had only been on a social level,” she explained. “I chaired a big Shabbat dinner in the past, but not much beyond that. I had been very focused on my dual careers in fashion and real estate, and I didn’t have time to dwell on much else. When the coronavirus pandemic hit and we were all forced into quarantine, for the first time in my life I was forced to take a pause. It really hit me, and I decided that I wanted to take this time to focus on my learning.

“I joined the rabbi every night on Zoom for the Half Hour of Power Torah-study session he taught, and I was embracing more and more of my tradition. So when the rabbi and his wife announced the Lag BaOmer event, it was only natural that I join. Of course, it was that night when the light bulb went off in my head.”

Armet describes her journey from causal participant to deeply invested Jewish community member on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and how that brought her chocolate passion to fruition.
Armet describes her journey from causal participant to deeply invested Jewish community member on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and how that brought her chocolate passion to fruition.

Armet stresses just how much her chocolate project is rooted in the community it was born. “This entire venture would be nothing without Chabad of the UES. And it really does embrace the entire community: When I first started making chocolate in my kitchen and delivering it around the neighborhood, people would lend me their bikes, others provided the containers, while others helped me set up the crowdfunding page to bring it to the next level.”

Indeed, when the Wilhelms celebrated the bat mitzvah of their daughter Mushka, Armet was there with her chocolate, making artisanal bark chocolate that featured women in Jewish history. With names like “O.M.Hashem” and “Eishet Cocoa,” the chocolate is more than just a sweet delight; it’s a canvas that expresses the energy and ethos of the community members who pour their passion into it.

Its mission statement reads: “This community-driven operation spreads joy and love through the streets of New York with its array of bold, unique, and show-stopping flavors. Trust us; the bark is worth the bite.” That said, it’s clear that this isn’t one woman’s chocolatier-ing adventure, but rather a neighborhood hustle that continually brings people together.

Arnet with Mushka Wilhelm, Rabbi Yosef and Devorah Wilhelm's daughter.
Arnet with Mushka Wilhelm, Rabbi Yosef and Devorah Wilhelm's daughter.

‘A Person-to-Person Project’

Armet has big plans for the future. With a successful round of crowdfunding on Indiegogo that raised $22,000, plans are in place to bring in a professional chocolatier and purchase appropriate equipment to go commercial. Of course, the love notes and cute names aren’t going away, as it will always remain a person-to-person project.

For the kosher consumer, Armet bakes the chocolate in the Wilhelms’ kitchen and distributes it from there, but as of now, the brand does not yet have a commercial kosher certification. Looking ahead, Armet wants to get full kosher certification. “We are in touch with kosher agencies to certify our product once we go fully commercial. For now, when we stage an event in the community and sell the chocolate around, it’s all made in the rabbi’s kitchen with ingredients there,” explained Armet.

With names like “O.M.Hashem” and “Eishet Cocoa,” the chocolate is more than just a sweet delight; it’s a canvas that expresses the energy and ethos of the community members who pour their passion into it.
With names like “O.M.Hashem” and “Eishet Cocoa,” the chocolate is more than just a sweet delight; it’s a canvas that expresses the energy and ethos of the community members who pour their passion into it.

Beyond the fun and games of bringing desserts and smiles to tantalized palates and faces, Armet sees much meaning in the venture. “The whole thing is really miraculous in my eyes, and I can very much see the hand of G‑d in it all. With everyone quarantined during COVID, it was quite scary. But I trusted in G‑d that all would be well, and that I would find my calling. I never expected it to be in chocolate, but here we are, and I couldn’t love it more.

“It really humbles me,” she continued. “With everyone pitching in and bringing this little passion project to fruition like it was theirs, I have come to realize that it’s really not about me. It’s about all of us—a community that bands together and is there for each other. With G‑d’s help, that’s how the miracles happen.”

Community celebrations of Jewish life are a hallmark of Chabad events.
Community celebrations of Jewish life are a hallmark of Chabad events.
“This entire venture would really be nothing without Chabad of the UES. And it really does embrace the entire community."
“This entire venture would really be nothing without Chabad of the UES. And it really does embrace the entire community."