Baking, Learning and Leading

November 13, 2013

As part of our 25th anniversary series, we are featuring stories from young leaders who #MakeItHappen in their communities. This story comes to us from Challah for Hunger, which brings people together to bake and sell challah in an effort to raise money and awareness for social justice causes.

As a student at the University of Virginia, Kate Belza co-founded a Challah for Hunger chapter and has now moved on to serve as a Chapter Advisor. Kate is also spending her year serving as a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corp Fellow in Buenos Aires, Argentina, helping to connect Jewish teens from Argentina to teens around the world.

“Chocolate chip or sundried tomato & basil?” “No we do not keep the profits, we donate the proceeds to organizations trying to combat hunger around the world.” These words came naturally to me over the past few years in my position with Challah for Hunger at the University of Virginia (UVA). A national organization, Challah for Hunger (CfH), has more than sixty chapters across twenty-four states and three continents all with the same purpose.

Most chapters operate weekly, baking and selling thirty to three hundred loaves of challah, often in creative flavors like chocolate chip, sun-dried tomato, cinnamon sugar, pumpkin and more--the possibilities are endless! Each chapter donates fifty percent of its profits to our national cause, American Jewish World Service, and fifty percent to support local organizations. Challah for Hunger is a fun way to do something meaningful through the values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

I first became involved with the organization three years ago, after returning from an alternative spring break trip to Nahariya, Israel with the University's Brody Jewish Center and JDC Entwine.

In founding the chapter at UVA, my friends and I learned to constantly innovate and develop ideas to improve the organization, whether brainstorming a new flavor of the week or implementing a system of pre-orders to make our process more efficient. I also saw the tremendous benefit of working with others. By myself I could maybe cook twenty loaves of challah but with others, over the first two years we were able to bake over 3,500 loaves and donate over $10,000 to local and international organizations.

I also saw that a good idea has the power to inspire others to join in and give. For example, a member of the Brody Jewish Center´s Board of Directors connected me with the owner of the Albemarle Baking Company in Charlottesville, VA, who, to this day, continues to donate the chapter's dry ingredients.

Of course, no good learning experience would be complete without problem solving and quick thinking. I remember one week a new volunteer added instant yeast to our dough instead of cinnamon sugar. This resulted in the largest challah I had ever seen and a new policy: label the ingredient bins.

I was not alone in my efforts. One of the highlights was the opportunity to meet other CfH leaders from around the world at a CfH Summit in Austin, Texas, where we shared ideas, learned new strategies for success and tried out some crazy challah flavors like blueberry chai tea!  In essence, my involvement with Challah for Hunger allowed me to do something fun while doing something good.

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to stay involved. As a Chapter Advisor, I get to interact with chapters across the country and act as their liaison to the international organization, all while making sure my chapters have the support they need. I am building on the skills I developed as a Chapter Leader and helping to cultivate those same skills in current and future leaders.

My involvement in Challah for Hunger stemmed from my desire to combine my passion for Judaism, philanthropy and service. Today, my goal is to instill in the chapters the idea that volunteering and giving back is fun, both during college and after. I love being an advisor because I can stay connected to an organization that has been very important to me and can continue empowering college students to make their ideas happen, do what they love and love what they do.

Has Kate inspired you to #MakeItHappen? Visit the #MakeItHappen site today to learn more about how you can make a difference in your Jewish community!

To learn more about Kate, read her interview!

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.