Challah for Hunger Celebrates Culture and Raises Awareness

Challah, a doughy braided sweet bread, normally brings to mind Jewish rituals and beliefs. Colgate Challah for Hunger, however, looks to change these associations. Student volunteers on the 80-plus college campuses involved in this international organization come together as often as they can to bake and sell challah while raising money and awareness for food insecurity.

A majority of students involved are, if not religiously, then culturally Jewish. At college, when students are far away from home and tradition, re-entering a cultural safe haven can be a magical thing.

“When we were little, we had Friday night dinners with my family,” said junior Alexis Goldman,  former co-president of the Colgate chapter. “We would light the candles and eat challah together, and it’s nice to have those memories.”

In addition to the nostalgia baked into the act of braiding and kneading dough with loved ones, the organization can act as a guiding point for those looking to further explore their identities.

“I’ve never been a super religious person in general,” said sophomore Aaron Shapiro, the chapter’s current president. “But, I think culturally doing stuff related to Judaism is important. As I get older, I’m trying to navigate my identity, and indulge more in the Jewish aspect of my identity.”

However, Goldman is sure to emphasize that religion is not the most important, or even an especially relevant aspect of the experience.

“People of all religions are welcome to join and we don’t commonly discuss topics related to Judaism,” she explained, “And while it’s nice to have those memories, it isn’t just a club for people who are Jewish.”

The challah bakes are the club’s central attraction, and students perusing the club fair often find themselves drawn to join.

“I walked by the table at the club fair,” said first-year Emmett Hintz, “and I could tell it would be a good community working for a good cause.”

Despite its undeniable solidity, and the fun of baking with friends, the group remains serious about its cause. Half of the money they raise selling challah goes to the Hamilton Food Pantry, while the other half goes to the national organization.

At challah bakes, members discuss matters of food insecurity and awareness. While the issue of hunger can seem like a remote one, reserved for those with experiences far removed from places like Colgate, according to the Challah for Hunger website, one in three college students will experience food insecurity.

“I really think we’ve been successful,” said Goldman, “We’re are able to explain a lot of the mission at the club fair and at events. It interests people and we’re able to explain, especially because some people aren’t aware it’s an issue.”