The Big Rainbow Cookie Kerfuffle

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage – or “marriage,” as it can now be known. Brands large and small were quick to show their support for this decision (see an interesting article on that here), with reportedly 3.6 million tweets created using the hashtag #lovewins after Friday’s announcement.

rainbow cookies Here at Challah Connection, we were quieter about the big legal news. We simply put this image on our website’s home page, featuring our beloved Rainbow Cookies and stating that their colors had new meaning after the Supreme Court decision.

Here’s another famous cookie making a similar statement:

rainbow cookies grahamsHoney Maid graham crackers stated that “wholesome has always been at the core of our products” and that it recognizes, “while the makeup and the day-to-day lives of families have evolved, those wholesome family connections remain the same.” Nice sentiment, zero out lash.

Not so for our rainbow cookie statement. We were a bit taken aback by what transpired. If you didn’t hear about it already, you can see this response online.rainbow cookie kerfuffle

The website OnlySimchas.com wrote about the displeasure of some of our kosher consumers concerning our “endorsement and support of a lifestyle and activity that is unequivocally condemned and forbidden by Jewish Law.”

I was quoted as responding to criticism of our “stance” on these delicious treats by saying Challah Connection will “stand firm in the Jewish values that implore upon us to show compassion and kindness to all beings”. And that, my friends, IS where I stand!

We believe in freedom. We believe in love, and compassion – for all people, of every faith, everywhere. We are here to help all people gain more access to wonderful items that have sprung from our Jewish faith. Our customers include Jews and non-Jews alike,  and that’s one of the things we love about Challah Connection. We are a conduit to Jewish customs, cultural practices, and of course specialty Jewish foods. But anyone can enjoy the special items we sell, regardless of their religious belief. Do you have to be a devout Jew to enjoy a delicious rainbow cookie? To send some rainbow cookies as part of a shiva basket? Certainly not.

This is a big kerfuffle over a cookie. A fabulously delicious cookie. A cookie which is kosher – just like all of the other products at Challah Connection, which are kosher. If we want to have a big Jewish-style debate about rainbow cookies, let’s have it about where their stripes originated, or whether they are more delicious than rugelah. Not about what they mean, or could mean, to people symbolically. Because that is up to each individual person to decipher.

We do not pass judgement on anyone’s lifestyle. We are here because we love our religion, and the many values it teaches: education, compassion, and even questioning our own beliefs among them. No one movement, group or sect “owns” Judaism, it belongs to us all and holds a unique place in history as one of the world’s oldest religions.

It is not up to us to determine what moves people’s spirit, nor judge the direction in which it moves them. But if they are seeking things Jewish – whether that’s rainbow cookies, Sabbath candle sticks, or a mezzuzah to consecrate their new Jewish home – we want to help them connect because Jewish traditions are worth sharing.

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Jewish Housewarming Gifts: About Mezuzahs (Mezuzot)

Why a Mezuzah is a Great Housewarming Gift

One of the ways you can identify a Jewish home is by the mezuzah that marks the door frame. The word “mezuzah” is Hebrew for “doorpost,” and the plural form of the word mezuzah is “mezuzot.” The torah instructs Jews to “write these commandments on the doorpost of your home,” which is why people place a mezuzah on their doorposts.

What is a Mezuzah?

It’s a long narrow case that contains a scroll with the Shema prayer inscribed on it – the holiest Jewish prayer.

There are many kinds of mezuzot, some more traditional, some contemporary, all crafted to contain this special scroll. Sometimes a mezuzah will have the word “Shalom” on the outside, or some are decorated with Jewish symbols.

Jewish housewarming giftThis gorgeous pewter mezuzah, with the shin in the form of an olive branch, embraces peace – in the home, in the heart, in the world. It comes with contrasting brass screws and paper scrolls, is for use indoors or out and measures approx. 4.5″x1″.  It’s also Handmade in the USA. $44.99 – Send One Now

Not only do people put mezuzahs on their outer doorposts, but sometimes also on their interior ones. So anyone who follows this Jewish tradition who’s buying a new home will appreciate a mezuzah as a housewarming gift.

mezuzah as housewarming giftThis mezuzah is so pretty, it would be appreciated in any doorway. It is made by hand painting, followed by a variety of materials meticulously arranged inside the delicately cut stainless steel frame. $127.99 – Send One Now

Even if they have one mezuzah already, there are plenty of doorways in every home! That’s why we think a mezuzah is a wonderful Jewish housewarming gift. See more ideas for housewarming gifts here.

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Video: Shiva, the 7 Day Jewish Mourning Period

Death is part of our journey. The more we can accept that, the more free we will be to live our lives to the fullest. Here is some helpful information about Shiva, the 7 Day Jewish mourning period. May we all live to be 104, but if not, there are things we need to know…

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Let the Challah Connection Mavens Help With Your Mother’s Day Shopping

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How to Write a Sympathy Message

Writing a sympathy message is one of life’s most difficult tasks. Jane Moritz, Challah Connection owner shares with you give messages that customers have used over the last decade.

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Preparing for Passover, Beyond the Brisket

JaneChaibraceletFrom Jane Moritz, Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection:
Now that our 3 sons are out of the house, my husband and I are cleaning out and packing up our house as we get ready for our next home in our next life phase. With the dumpster filling up outside our garage and my no-tchotcke-left-unturned focus, I was particularly moved when I received a recent email, “From Purim to Passover,” about preparing for Passover. The author, Nigel Savage, President of Hazon beautifully discusses prep that is well beyond the brisket. I wanted to share it with you and whether you are Jewish or not or religious or not, these are thoughts that we can all make use of. Here is an excerpt from his email:

From Nigel Savage, President, Hazon.org:
nigel-savage“I think of the period from seder night until Shavuot as a sustained reflection on the nature of freedom, and in particular about traveling from freedom from (want, oppression, slavery) to freedom to (make a difference in the world, exercise choice, restrain oneself in certain ways.)
The period from Purim to seder night is thus preparation for this. It’s the work we need to do to be able to start to leave our own enslavement and to think freshly and confidently about our freedom.

And the tradition’s great insight – hidden in plain view – is that a significant part of that process is about getting rid of stuff.
Certainly this involves removing chametz, traditionally understood – bread and beer and whisky and other fermented products. But the deeper gift of this period – certainly in our time, certainly in the west – is the deeper notion that we have too much stuff of all sorts, and that if we truly want to be free – if we want even to begin to imagine our true freedom – the road to doing so involves getting rid not only of literal chametz but of existential chametz – the superfluities that hinder our freedom.

So in our household we do kasher our home in the traditional sense; we keep a fairly strictly kosher kitchen and that is important to us. But as well as the traditional koshering, we take the opportunity to try to get rid of stuff. We take stuff to goodwill, or to the office. Give things to friends. Throw things out.” For Nigel’s complete letter, click here.

Happy Passover!

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Help Your College Student Celebrate Passover

JoinouremaillistSpring Break is early this year. Or maybe Passover is late. Either way, the eight-day holiday begins at sundown on Friday, April 3, about a week after classes resume. If your kids attend an out-of-town college, they may be celebrating without you.

SederEssLGCampus Hillel programs and other Jewish organizations do a good job of organizing at least one seder for students. You may want to do a little research in advance, to be sure your student signs up. If your kid tends to procrastinate, he or she might wake up on April 3 and realize that there is no place reserved at the seder table. And college students seldom have the facilities, ingredients – or frankly, the skills – to create a last-minute seder on their own.

PassMealLGHere’s one way to be sure that your college kids have a positive Passover experience at school: Send a seder in a box from Challah Connection. They get it all: the Haggadah, matzah, grape juice, dessert – even a seder plate. Everything is kosher for Passover, so they’ll have everything to make a seder, except the festive meal.

But wait! Challah Connection has the meal too! Order by March 20, and we’ll send your college student a complete Passover dinner on April 2, to feed four to six people: matzo ball soup, roast chicken, brisket, potato pancakes and tzimmes, a stew of sweet potatoes and carrots. This marvelous meal is an amazing treat for students – and you can order it for yourself, too! That way, you won’t have to spend all day in the kitchen before your guests arrive.

CandyMacPlatterLGIf your kids are anything like mine, they are eager to dig into those traditional Passover foods, as they ask the time-honored fifth question of the seder: “When do we eat?” They’ll stuff themselves, but they always seem to make room for those amazing desserts! Be sure your Passover order includes a platter of Pesadich cookies, candy and macaroons, or decadent, chocolate-covered matzo, to make their seder experience complete.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and browse our selection of kosher for Passover gift baskets, for your students, your family and for yourself. Join our mailing list, and receive holiday reminders, delicious recipes, and special, money-saving offers. Happy Passover!

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Passover Hostess Gifts Made Easy

JoinouremaillistSo, you’re invited for the seder! Mazel tov! Someone else will do the cooking and the worrying. You just have to show up. Right? Well, yes, but it’s so nice to bring a gift for your host or hostess.

So, nu? What should you bring? Passover hostess gifts can be tricky. If your hosts observe the holiday traditions, they have been working very hard to clean the house and banish all traces of chametz (leavening.) You may love to cook or bake, but they may not be in a position to accept home-prepared food items. Flowers are nice, but the first seder night is on Shabbat* so the Sabbath-observant hosts may not want to handle cut flowers after the sun goes down.

A thoughtful seder guest does have some nice, worry-free options when it comes to Passover hostess gifts:

MoradDuoLgKosher wine is a welcome seder gift, as guests are obliged to drink four cups of wine during the ritual meal. Don’t worry, you are not limited to the syrupy-sweet Concord wines of your grandparents’ generation. Many stores now carry fine kosher wines to please the most sophisticated palate. Choices include Israeli imports, derived from Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay and other popular varietals. Choose a white wine to complement the gefilte fish, and a red to go with the brisket. Be sure the wine is clearly labeled “kosher for Passover.”

Passover Cookie Platter, Challah ConnectionPassover desserts also make a lovely gift. Never in the 3,000-plus years of Passover observance has a single Jew complained that there were too many desserts. Bring or send a basket of their favorites: rainbow cookies, macaroons, chocolate-covered matzah, seven-layer cake, candy, nuts, fruit and more. You’ll be invited back every year!

Passover Judaica items are the way to go, if you prefer to give a gift that will last beyond one evening, Challah Connection offers a beautiful selection of Passover Judaica. Trivets from Israel can be a beautiful addition to the seder table, and a decorative match box cover will remind them of you every time they light Shabbos and yontif candles, all year round. If the seder guests include young children, some Passover games and books will keep them engaged and make the seder a fun, educational experience for the kids and their parents.

Challah Connection will deliver your gift directly to the hosts’ home, so you don’t have to schlep. And every Passover gift basket at challahconnection.com is certified kosher for Passover. You can share the joy of the holiday and experience the freedom of knowing your gift will surprise and delight your hosts.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and order your hostess gift. Then buy a gift for yourself, too. Enjoy!

* Passover begins on Friday evening, April 3 in the year 5775 (also known as 2015.)

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A More Beautiful Passover Seder

JoinouremaillistThis year, Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 3. Whether you are a host or a guest, chances are you’ll be attending a seder, as Passover is the most widely celebrated of all Jewish holidays.

The seder is so much more than a meal. It is an experience that engages all of our senses: taste is primary, but we also hear the ancient story and our favorite holiday songs, smell the horseradish, and lean on a pillow, as we raise up the matzah and seder plate for all to see.

MDSPLargeThere is a principle of Judaism called “hiddur mitzvah,” beautifying or enhancing the mitzvah. When we perform a mitzvah — a religious obligation – it is not meant to be unpleasant. We strive to enhance the experience, and to make it even more memorable in every way. For example, Jewish tradition tells us to refrain from eating matzah until the seder itself, so that we can savor that first taste — which is much improved when you haven’t eaten it in a long time!

One way to add to the beauty and enjoyment of the holiday is to purchase Passover Judaica – ritual objects and books that are unique to the holiday – and use them in your seder, this year and every year.

If you are hosting a seder this year, you will want to have a beautiful seder plate. If you have a seder plate, think about adding a special matzah plate and a matzah cover, Elijah’s cup, even a new serving bowl or decorative utensil, can add to your experience.

This could be the year to replace your mismatched Haggadah “set” that you picked up for free at the local supermarket, and finally buy a beautifully illustrated Haggadah – or a whole set – to use and cherish at this seder and all the ones to come.

HamTrivLGIf you already have a full complement of Passover Judaica, Challah Connection offers a beautiful selection of Judaica items that are suitable for any occasion. Trivets from Israel can be a beautiful addition to the seder table, and a decorative match box cover will enhance your enjoyment of Shabbos and yontif candle lighting, all year round.

If you will be a guest at the home of friends or family, consider bringing or sending a beautiful Judaica item as a hostess gift. Challah Connection will deliver your gift directly to the hosts’ home, so you don’t have to schlep.

Visit www.challahconnection.com and browse our Judaica items, as well as our marvelous selection of kosher for Passover gift baskets. And have a beautiful Passover!

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Mishloach Manot: A Delicious Purim Mitzvah

JoinouremaillistMishloach manot, or shalach manot, means “sending portions” of food to friends, and it is one delicious Purim mitzvah. On Purim, which falls this year on Thursday, March 5, friends exchange gifts of ready-to-eat food and beverages, to enhance the joy of the holiday.

TB1PURLGChallah Connection will assemble and send your Purim baskets, so you can relax and enjoy the holiday fun. Your mishloach manot should include at least two ready-to-eat foods or beverages, but you can exceed your friends’ expectations with Purim Traditions in a Box: cookies, brownie, chocolates, nuts, grape juice — all kosher, of course — and a noisemaker, all packed in a festive, Purim-themed package.

Purim is all about fun, food, and drinking, along with a public reading of the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, the young Jewish woman who captured the heart of the King of Persia and saved her people from destruction. It’s a long story, and that gives the word “megillah” the connotation of unending tedium. In fact, Purim is anything but boring. It’s a crazy, fun day that even has its own cookie: hamentaschen (Yiddish for “Haman’s pockets”) are a fruit-filled pastry folded in a triangle. Fun fact: In Israel, they’re called “oznei Haman” or “Haman’s ears.” We hate Haman, but we love those pockets!

On Purim, children — and many adults — wear costumes, eat sweets and party their brains out. Give them some extra Purim fun from Challah Connection. This great package includes masks, games and noisemakers, so the little ones can enjoy the holiday spirit, plus a variety of fruit-filled hamentaschen for mishloach manot.

Another entertaining aspect of Purim: drinking! Adults are expected to get tipsy enough so they can’t tell the difference between Esther’s nobleMoradDuoLg cousin Mordechai and the villain Haman, whose name is blotted out by booing and noisemakers during the Megillah reading. Show off your deep understanding of Purim tradition by sending your friends two bottles of fine Israeli wine, along with a platter of hamentaschen.

A key Purim mitzvah (obligation) is giving gifts of food to the poor, so they can celebrate too. Challah Connection is your Purim partner. We will be donating challah and our delicious kosher baked goods to our local food bank for our local friends to share and enjoy.

So, nu? Order your goodies from Challah Connection already, and have a very happy Purim. Enjoy! It’s a mitzvah!

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