The Return of Communal Challah Baking

Nov. 15 2019

This week, Jews all over the world attended cooking classes and bake-offs as part of what has become known as the “Great Challah Bake.” Abby Schachter, drawing on her own experience at Great Challah Bakes, comments on these events and their rapid spread over the past few years:

In recent years, communal challah baking has expanded beyond the Orthodox community and Chabad, as Reform synagogues and others have joined the party (or thrown their own). This year, there was even a Great British Baking Show-style competition at a local Reform synagogue, perhaps sparked by an episode [of the television series] where challah was curiously called “a plaited loaf.”

Every one of these events—which I have attended variously as a participant, table captain, or Martha Stewart-like demonstrator—has been an event unlike any other I have attended in a life of attending Jewish events. The crowd is (largely) female; the age range is wide, as is the level of expertise. The crowd includes Israeli émigrés [and] secular, affiliated, post-denominational, traditional, and ḥaredi participants.

The women from across the Jewish spectrum who gather together at these events are participating in what is more conventionally a solitary experience, conducted in one’s own kitchen with a good cookbook propped up on the counter next to a bag of flour. But maybe the current fad of group baking can be understood not as innovation so much as a modification of practices that reach back to an earlier time. Indeed, baking used to be only communal, as towns and hamlets ordinarily would have had one baker who baked loaves for everyone.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Jewish food, Judaism, Sabbath

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform