Posts Tagged 'Challah'

Chatelaine: Keys, Access, and Power

When I was a kid having more keys translated into having more power. You only had access if you had the right key. As a kid at camp it always felt that other people had access and control. Having a large key ring was a status symbol.

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As many of you know I am nudnik for word of the day. Recently the word was Chatelaine ( SHAD-e-leyn). Coming from French it means a set of short chains attached to a woman’s belt, used for carrying keys or other items. A Chatelaine is also a woman in charge of a large house. This word captures this image of power, control, and easy access.

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Clearly this all comes to mind this Shabbat just after Passover when it is customary to make Schlissel Challah. Shlissel is Yiddish for “key.” Many people make their challah e either in the shape of a key or with a key baked inside. The custom is popular in communities that descend or have traditions coming from Poland, Germany, and Lithuania.  The are a number of reasons given for making this particular shape or style of challah.

For me it has everything to do with the Chatelaine. There is a natural progression from slavery, to freedom, to being the hostess with the mostest. Like Chatelaine the Schlissel Challah represents access, control, and power.


Higher Purpose

At the end of Shelach, this week’s Torah portion, we read about Challah. There we read:

Of the first of your dough you shall set apart a cake for a gift; as that which is set apart of the threshing-floor, so shall you set it apart. Of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord a portion for a gift throughout your generations. Numbers 15:20-21

Today we call Challah the braided loaf of bread, but it is more precise to just call it bread. Challah is actually the part that we give awChallahay. It is a beautiful idea that our Challah bread is identified by what we take away from it and raise for a higher purpose. What happens when we take  our time, our resources, our money, and our talent and raise it up for a higher purpose? When we commit ourselves to the causes we hold dear we ourselves are transformed.  In the act of giving away something what is left is enriched. Acts of altruism help us raise up the rest of our lives. Like Challah we can be called by the name of a higher purpose.

– Check out other thoughts on Challah.


The Bread of Affliction

So like most weeks I get some random person friending me on Facebook who I do not know. Today was no different. Today’s person and I  clearly have some people in common, but I had never met this person. As is my custom I wanted to write this person to see how we might connect before I deciding to accept their offer of being friends. Unable to find a way to e-mail the person I started looking through her profile. She clearly is some sort of academic or writer in Germany. Still an able to find a way to contact her I started looking at her pictures.  Below is one that I found.

I could not believe my eyes. Could this actually be what I think it is? As we are all preparing to burn all of the Chametz out of our lives and commemorate our national story of liberation, there it is a Swastichallah . Yes the two great tastes that taste great together; a Challah and a Swastika. The symbol of Jewish oppression manifest in the Nazi Party made out of Challah, a symbol of Jewish life. It seemed only fitting to share this with you today.

So as we get ready for Passover, we can all have a new image of the bread of affliction. If you did not see it you would never believe it. Have a Chag Kasher V’Sameakh. Have a wonderfully liberating holiday free from Chametz and hatred.

Tasty Education

When I tell people  I work in camping, their first response is that they want to know what I do the rest of the year. After that I usually get the love. We love camp it transformed our lives. When I tell them that I work in Jewish Education in camping I get a lot of blank looks. What kind of work is that? Camps are just places to socialize Jews. What kind of education might we try to do at camp? There are no class rooms in camp. And if I try to put them into class in the summer  I will destroyed camp. I see it in their eyes. I have been transformed to the Grinch who stole fun from camp.

In these moments I reflect on the wise words of the great educator Geoffrey Canada. In a segment he wrote for This I Believe, he wrote about his belief in camp.  There Canada wrote;

Back in 1975, when I was coming out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I worked in a summer camp in Ossipee, N.H., for kids with the absolute toughest problems: emotionally disturbed kids, autistic kids, oppositional ADHD kids, kids that everyone — even their parents — had given up on. One of the things that I and the staff would do is cook with the kids. These children didn’t know baking powder from table salt, but once they had eaten a warm biscuit out of the oven, smeared with melted butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, they were very motivated to learn how to make some more.Suddenly, kids who couldn’t sit still or focus were carefully eyeballing ingredients as we measured them out, learning the simple math and spelling lessons we could slip in along the way. By the end of the summer, I remember parents breaking down and crying when they saw the progress their children had made.

The biscuits, by the way, were delicious, and I can still remember the taste of them today — and more importantly, I still remember the lesson they taught me: that if we, the adults, can find the right motivation for a child, there’s hope for that child’s education.

If  a child does not succeed, it means the adults around him or her have failed. It is not that camp is successful because there are no classrooms, it is successful because it has a very complex classroom that strives to deal with all kinds of learners.  Canada goes on to write;

I believe that we adults have to help them, and that starts with looking hard at each child, finding out what excites them and exploiting that excitement shamelessly.

For Canada it came with a plate of steaming, hot biscuits that tasted so good they were ready to learn anything.

Last year I took a group of Assistant Camp Directors to Camp Alonim for a training. We were blessed to spend time with another great educator Dr. Bruce Powell. He shared with us a similar story about how the son of completely acculturated family came to be a leader in the Jewish day school movement. Powell’s mother, a secular Jewess, once went to hear a lecture by Shlomo Bardin the founder of Camp Alonim and BCI. When she asked him what she should do to engage more in Jewish life, Bardin did not tell her to go to a Jewish Studies class or a Synagogue. He asked her what her favorite Jewish memory was. Powell’s mother replied that she loved the smell of Challah baking from her childhood. At that moment Bardin asked her to commit to making Challah for ever Shabbat. As a boy Dr. Powell came home every Friday to the smell of Challah. From there he went to Alonim, and has had an amazing career in Jewish Education staring many day schools.

At the end of Shelach, this week’s Torah portion, we read about Challah. There we read:

20 Of the first of your dough you shall set apart a cake for a gift; as that which is set apart of the threshing-floor, so shall you set it apart.21 Of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord a portion for a gift throughout your generations. Numbers 15:20-21

Today we call Challah the braided loaf of bread, but it is actually the part that we give away. So too, camp is defined of not being school. When in reality it is an amazing place that we could teach anything we want, as long as we make it tasty. I believe in camp, because I believe the only education is fueled by the students passion. The job of the educator is to connecting a child to their passion. This is truly a gift throughout our generations.

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