Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley sponsored a Community Challah Bake on January 19, 2017 to teach women and men how to make challah. Challah is a bread with an enriched yeast dough. It is served at the meal in a Jewish home every Shabbat, Friday night, as well as, on Jewish Holidays. At its root, challah is a very straightforward bread to make. The dough is enriched with oil, and sometimes egg, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness. It doesn’t require any fussy techniques and can be made from start to finish in the space of an afternoon.
The joy of making challah is to contemplate your life, home and family as you add each ingredient. For example, when adding sugar, one might ask G-d to bless ones family for a sweet life, sweet relationships and blessings. Yeast is the basic ingredient in challah. It makes the dough rise. When blending the yeast with the warm water, you might wish that your family might be able to rise to their best selves and rise to the challenges sent its way. Water symbolizes life. One might think that just as water unifies and connects all the ingredients in this dough, may G-d permeate ones home with connection and unity and help people set aside their differences and unite.
Over 40 women and men spent the day at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley being taught how to first make the dough, watch it rise and then learn how to braid the challah. There are a variety of ways that the bread can be shaped and twisted. You can start with two strands, three stands, and we went all the way up to six strands, in order to twist and braid the dough into various shapes. Braiding the challah strands helps us harness our creative capacities for the purpose of observing the Shabbat. Round challahs are unique to the High Holidays, Jewish New Year, season. Some say they represent a crown and that they reflect the season in that we are coronating the King of the world. Others piint t the cyclical natue of the year and feel that the circular shape is representative of that. The final product is baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in the middle rack of the oven. They were delicious!!!
Photo 1: The group, fledgling challah bakers, took a break while their yeast dough was rising
Photo 2: Michelle Mandelman, left, Community Challah Bake chair from Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley and, right, Debbie Rosalimsky, challah making instructor, as they made their way to the kitchen to bake the challahs that everyone prepared.