Chabad Offers Challah and Kabbalah

By Annette van de Kamp-Wright


On September 22, 2008, Chabad of Nebraska opened its doors to an enthusiastic group of women from the community for the annual 'Challah-thon'.  Shani Katzman from Chabad spoke to those present about the importance of Challah, while visitors kneaded and braided their dough. Culinary help came from the very capable hands of Susan Fellman-Witkowski, whose tri-colored Challah was recently featured on Recipezaar, a famous website dedicated to original recipes. The Women of Worth Chabad Auxiliary sponsored the event.

"Baking Challah is one of the three 'feminine Mitzvot,'" Shani Katzman said, "along with the laws of family purity and Shabbat candle lighting, so it is much more than merely baking bread. The topic of Challah is, in a way, a commentary on the role of women in Judaism; it speaks volumes of a woman's ability to mold, to nurture, to affect and influence her family as well as her community. Even more poignant is the ability to step back and recognize the true source of success, which is G‑d's blessing."

The word Challah itself technically refers to the separation of the dough before the bread is baked and donating it to the Kohanim. However, the term has come to mean the particular braided bread we bake for and eat on Shabbat. Mot Challah use honey, sesame seeds or poppy seeds, and they are easily recognizable, no matter who bakes them. During Rosh Hashanah, however, we get creative: making the Challah round and sweet leaves room to try out old favorites or come up with new ideas.

For this year's Challah-thon, Susan Witkowski showed visitors her beet/carrot/spinach Challah, a delectable sweet bread made with various brightly colored vegetable purees. Many visitors brought their daughters, since there is no better way to learn the mechanics and meanings of Challah than alongside a room full of Jewish mothers.

Community members who missed the Challah-thon this year will be happy to hear they don't have to wait a whole year for the next one, as Challah baking will become a regular feature at Chabad. "We are currently working on making this a regular event, since we are finding there is much enthusiasm for home-baked Challah in the community," Shani Katzman said. "Baking Challah is just one of many different things you can come and learn at Chabad, and once you start baking your own, you won't want to go without."

            Chabad has more in the works when it comes to special events; potentially the most exciting of which is a lecture by Rabbi Immanuel Schochet, planned for October 28. Rabbi Schochet is an academic and a scholar who has written extensively on the history and philosophy of Hasidism and Jewish themes of though and ethics. He was born in Switzerland, lived in the Netherlands and Canada, and attended the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim in New York City, from which he graduated in 1958. He holds a PhD in philosophy as well as an MA in religious studies, and specializes in Logic, Epistemology, Ethics, and Philosophy of Religion. He has written over 30 books, among which a comprehensive biography of the Baal Shem Tov, as well as an annotated translation of the Tanya. Rabbi Schochet has also authored articles for numerous publications and has spoken for communities throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Israel, the Far East, and South Africa. His lecture, titled "Kabbalah- The Good, the Bad, and the Fad" should draw a sizable crowd to the Chabad House.
"Rabbi Schochet will offer a frank discussion of what Kabbalah is, and of what it definitely is not," Shani Katzman said. "He will explore why Kabbalah has taken hold in popular culture, and why there is so much danger of it being abused and manipulated. His lecture promises to be very riveting and especially thought provoking, and I hope many community members will set aside time to come and hear him speak. We promise he will give you much to think about."
For information about Rabbi Schochet's October 28 lecture, upcoming Challah baking, or any other programs offered by Chabad, please call the Chabad House at 330-1800, or visit the website at