‘Challah for Hunger’ (CFH) bakes and distributes challah, a Jewish ceremonial bread, to help fight hunger both locally and globally.
CFH is a national organization that began a chapter at Penn State in 2012. Penn State’s CFH is run through Hillel, the on-campus Jewish organization.
“Our mission is to bring a community of Jewish or non-Jewish people together to bake for a cause and to have a relaxing, laid-back environment,” said Rebecca Fine, president of CFH and a junior majoring in childhood education.
CFH bakes at Pasquerilla Spiritual Center every other Thursday from 5-10 p.m. The purpose of baking on Thursday is so that the bread can be served for Shabbat, Judaism’s day of rest, on Friday.
The challah is free, but donations are encouraged. All proceeds are donated to State College food bank and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
At each bake, there are three flavors offered: plain, chocolate chip, and a specialty flavor such as Nutella or cinnamon sugar. About 30-40 loaves are made at each bake.
There are no requirements to get involved. Attendees are only asked to sign in and out with their name and email. About 15 people, mostly girls, attend each bake, and most people do not stay for the entirety.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community and just like relax,” Fine said. “Plus, kneading challah is a great stress relief.”
The girls pull back their hair and tie on an apron before beginning the challah-making process.
The bake begins with making the dough by mixing hot and cold ingredients. This includes kneading flour into the dough so that it is not too stringy or sticky. Then, the dough sits for about an hour.
After that, the dough is kneaded again before it is split up and braided. The braiding is the most intricate part of the bread-making process.
For each loaf, the dough is divided into six equal pieces. Each piece is rolled out with a rolling pin and then rolled between their hands into a long strand.
The six strands are then laid down parallel to each other with only the tops connected. The braiding begins as the far left and right strand are moved to their opposite side. The process continues in a fixed pattern where strands are either crossed to their opposite side or towards the center.
Once the dough is braided, it sits for another hour before it is put in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.
Caren Levin, CFH’s outreach chair and junior majoring in childhood education, leads different icebreakers and activities during down time.
Other Hillel groups joined a previous week’s bake. Everyone sat in a circle and played 2 Truths and a Lie while the bread was baking.
“It was a great way to get to know people’s names and interests,” Levin said.
Bakes are announced on CFH’s social media. Here, there is a link to a Google Doc where people fill out their name and the flavor and amount of challah they want. Challah can be picked up at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center main lobby on Friday from 1-3 p.m.
Visit http://challahforhunger.org for more information about the national CFH organization.
“My favorite part is meeting new people, easily,” Fine said. “I would never have met so many people if it wasn’t for CFH.”