Miyad Gives Out Challah Hugs

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When a Jericho High School student needed a volunteer opportunity, she reached out to Aliza Krivisky. The two sat down and discussed several ideas.

But the best, by far, was to follow the Jewish tradition of baking challah, a sweet bread that is usually braided, before Shabbat, which starts each Friday at sunset. While it’s great to bake and considered a positive commandment in Judaism, Krivisky wanted to take things a bit further.

“We look to see who in our lives needs an extra bit of love,” Krivisky, who has nine children, said. “It’s a reminder of Shabbat.”

Eventually, Krivisky created a program dedicated to this effort at Miyad, the Chabad house in Jericho, with support from her husband, Rabbi Chanan Krivisky. What started as a fun project has blossomed into a community program, with a handful of women coming together in the heart of Jericho.

They call it “Challah Hugs,” spreading the love just in time for the weekend. While baking, Krivisky will also give small talks about different concepts in Judaism, adding a teaching component to the fun.

“We started in September,” Janice Hurowitz said. “I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, so I posted on social media. I just wanted to experience something pure, something good.”

The group of women will bake the bread either on Thursday evenings or Friday mornings. They will then hand deliver it throughout the community, either to those who are ill, need a pick-me-up after trying times, have something to celebrate (i.e. having a baby) or they just ask if they could have some freshly-baked bread for the Sabbath.

“We have the community list from Miyad,” Krivisky said. “We’ll go through the list and reach out to people, or we’ll post on social media. It’s for anyone who needs a little bit of love.”

The program is in honor of Lisa Dutkowitz Cohen’s father, Eliezer Yehuda ben (son of) Chaim, who passed away in February. Each week, they will bake 12 challah breads. Some of the breads are seasoned, while others are plain.

Before the baking begins, Krivisky leads them in a prayer. As per tradition, she separates a piece of the dough and recites a blessing. The group also gives a bit of charity prior to baking.

Once the bread is fully baked, Krivisky and the rest of the challah huggers will wrap up the bread. Then, they’ll hand deliver it to those on their list, sometimes to the surprise of the hug recipients.

If community members want to sponsor the challah hugs, Miyad is more than happy to work with more people to spread the sweet bread throughout the area. Krivisky can be reached on Facebook and welcomes people to reach out her on the Chabad’s website, www.miyad.org.

Challah Recipe:

• 4 tablespoons of active dry yeast
• 5 cups of warm water
• 2 tablespoons of sugar
• 5 pounds of high gluten flour + more if needed
• 1 cup of sugar
• 2 tablespoons of salt
• 3 eggs
• 1/4 cup of honey
• 1 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
– Combine dry yeast, warm water and two tablespoons sugar in a glass bowl and set aside to proof 10 minutes.
– In a very large bowl, combine almost all of the flour with remaining sugar and salt. Add the eggs, honey and oil. Mix it well.
– Once the yeast is proofed, add to the flour mixture and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Transfer dough to working surface and knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed.
– Return the dough to the large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Set aside to rise for an hour and a half in a warm, draft-free spot.
– Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
– Uncover the dough and “take challah” (say the blessing with one small piece of the challah dough) then portion and braid them.
– Allow it to rise for 10 minutes then egg wash, sprinkle toppings and bake for about 45 minutes.

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