Last week, at the General Assembly in Washington DC, ROI, PresenTense, Jumpstart, the Center for Leadership Initiatives, Bikkurim and Jewlicious Festival, all official fans of challah, innovation, and Eli Winkelman, sponsored an event in honor of Challah for Hunger’s fifth anniversary. The event drew ROI, Kivun, and Reality Israel alumni as well as Insight Fellows; was hosted by founder Winkelman and volunteers from five Challah for Hunger chapters, and featured a gourmet and diversely flavored challah-tasting.
The ROI Community asked Eli, the original “Challahback Girl,” to provide some reflections.
Innovation, By the Loaf
Bagel traditionalists often proclaim, “There is no such thing as a blueberry bagel!” I hope that one day, I’ll be blamed for spawning ridiculous challah varieties. First, it was just Chocolate Chip Challah–borderline blasphemy. But when Challah for Hunger started making Mint Chocolate Chip Challah and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Challah (PB-CC), we opened the Pandora’s oven of challah.
Innovation can happen in small or big ways, adding something slightly unexpected to the mix or altering an ingredient completely. To some people, a new variety is obvious: a customer assumed that CfH was already baking PB-CC and tried to buy some; we started making and selling that variety the following week. Chai (Tea) Challah came out of the Challah Labs at our Vassar chapter.
At the GA reception, we featured many innovative challah flavors, including Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Sugar (cinnamon roll style), Chai (Tea), Healthier Challah (whole wheat made with agave and honey), Rosemary & Thyme, Olive & Garlic and Hummus (made with chickpeas and zataar). There were also recommended dip/sauce pairings for each variety, such as marinara sauce with the herb challah. (For additional pairing recommendations, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Challah for Hunger chapters donates half of their profits to our national cause, Darfur, through the American Jewish World Service; each chapter determines what organizations to support with the other half of its funds. During the event, CfH presented a check for $11,000 to Rabbi Brent Spodek of AJWS.
This most recent donation puts Challah for Hunger past the $100,000 donated milestone. CfH has been growing quickly – there are now more than 26 chapters – and half of the total donated over the past five years was donated in 2009. Our chapters have supported many organizations besides AJWS, including Jewish World Watch, the Harvey Kornblum Food Pantry, and the Proyecto Jardin community garden in Los Angeles.
We have sold many, many loaves of challot, in many different varieties, to raise the funds that we donate. As CfH continues to grow, we must remember that selling thousands of loaves of our “traditional” flavors (to us, Chocolate Chip Challah is old news) is a success, but so is fostering the creativity that brings us Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Challah and Pecan Pie Challah.
image: courtesy Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
cross-posted with ROICommunity.org.