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Giving Back Never Tasted So Good

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This story comes to us from Challah for Hunger, a not-for profit organization with 73 active chapters around the world, mostly based on university campuses, that bakes and sells challah bread and uses the proceeds to support social justice causes.

Elana Silberstein is Challah for Hunger's Program Director and the Chapter Co-Founder of Challah for Hunger at Maryland.

Challah for Hunger (CfH) has taught me how meaningful it is to gather communities to "bake a difference," as we like to say.

Earlier this year I was lucky to represent CfH at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly. Of the many great connections that I made with other organizations at the conference, I left the G.A. determined to collaborate with Good Deeds Day, an organization that gathers people across the world to do community service projects on the same day each year.

CfH traditionally operates with a chapter-based system on college campuses. Our volunteers are college students who gather regularly to bake and sell their product to their respective communities. And, after enjoying a decade of outstanding success with our traditional model, we’ve been asking ourselves what would CfH look like beyond the college campus? Good Deeds Day helped us explore the answer to this question.

Indeed, we jumped at the opportunity to join hundreds of thousands of other people to participate in the annual celebration of good deeds. On March 15th, 2015 CfH hosted two Good Deeds Day challah bakes in Philadelphia in partnership with Repair the World: Philadelphia, a post-college fellowship that mobilizes volunteers, and The Collaborative, a Jewish social programming organization.

Carly Zimmerman, CfH’s CEO, facilitated our program at a synagogue in Center City Philadelphia. The volunteers at this bake were a diverse group of young professionals who united for a day of community service through our CfH program. With each challah braid created, the volunteers learned about the three pillars of CfH: community, philanthropy and advocacy.

In addition to learning how to bake delicious challah, these volunteers contributed to positive change by fundraising for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and learning about hunger and food justice in a way that applies directly to their lives. While the challah baked, our partners at Repair the World led a hunger education activity that taught the participants about the lifecycle of challah ingredients.

Simultaneously, I facilitated a challah baking session with a group of teenage girls for a Bat Mitzvah project. In addition to baking many of their first loaves of challah, these young women raised money for hunger causes and learned about hunger in our nation. Using a meal mapping exercise that MAZON had taught me, I challenged the girls to build nutritional meals with a budget of $1.50. One girl told me that lunch at her school costs $8.50. That really drove the idea home. It was inspirational to see this group of young women doing good and having fun at the same time.

Reflecting on the question of CfH’s success beyond the college campus, I realized that the result is exactly what we expected it to be. Baking challah, educating volunteers and raising money for hunger causes are the perfect ingredients for success for communities of all kinds.

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.