Students bake challah to raise funds for charity

Students brush egg wash on challah dough at Northeastern's Hillel House. / Photo by Riley Robinson

By Corey Dockser, news correspondent

The mood was festive at Northeastern’s Hillel House Jan. 18, where students gathered to bake challah bread for a charitable cause.

The event, called Challah for Hunger, was hosted by Northeastern University Hillel to raise money for two anti-hunger charities. The first, MAZON, is a Jewish anti-hunger group. It is customary for Challah for Hunger chapters to give to MAZON, said Maya Michalewicz, a first-year undeclared student and one of the event’s organizers. The second, which was chosen by the event organizers, is Haley House, a local food bank, soup kitchen, bakery and advocacy group.

Challah for Hunger is a national charitable organization with more than 80 campus chapters worldwide. It was founded in 2004 by a student at Scripps College who missed baking with her family and wanted to connect with the Jewish community, according to the organization’s website.

Samantha Hartz, an undeclared first-year who helped organize the event, said this event was  the first of many to come.

“That was our test bake. It was basically a trial run to see how much we could sell and how much we could bake. It was a lot of fun,” Hartz said. “A bunch of people asked me when the next one would be, and we’re about to plan our next bake, so I would definitely say it was a success.”

Hartz said she was proud to be part of Northeastern Hillel’s first ever Challah for Hunger, because she feels she is contributing something positive to the world by bringing people together for a charitable cause.

“Hillel in general has been a good way for me to meet people, but now it’s my turn to organize the events and bring people together,” she said. “I feel like I’m helping build a community around service and fun. Definitely the people were the best part.”

Starting with a slab of plain white dough, attendees braided pieces into the dish’s signature shape before brushing them with egg wash and placing them on trays to be baked. Three types of challah were made: plain, chocolate chip and much larger plain loaves for Hillel attendees to use for Shabbat the following day.

Challah is a braided bread that has long held a prominent place in Jewish tradition, associated with every holiday except Passover. It comes in a variety of shapes and styles, representing everything from love to the 12 tribes of Israel, according to My Jewish Learning.

“Challah is the Jewish bread. It has brought the Jewish community together since forever,” Michalewicz said. “I think that’s why it’s important to us.”

Ilana Mereminsky, a first-year pharmaceuticals major and another event organizer, learned about the group through friends at other schools.

“I was just talking to them one day and one of them said ‘I just bought some challah from Challah for Hunger’ and explained it to me,” she said. “I was disappointed that it wasn’t here at Northeastern. I thought, ‘I love challah, and it’s for a good cause, so why not?’”

While Challah for Hunger is currently just an event put on by Northeastern University Hillel, Michalewicz and Mereminsky hope to put on more events in the future and are exploring the possibility of creating a Northeastern chapter of the organization.

“We’re just testing it out right now but eventually we hope to expand and do events with other groups on campus,” Michalewicz said.

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