Archive for Jewish Traditions

The Year of the Pickle

It’s a famous Jewish tradition: Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. Who knows how it all got started? Years ago, some enterprising Jewish family must have ventured out into the empty streets–with all the stores shuttered- on Christmas Day and discovered a light glowing in the distance. Hurrying closer, that Jewish family stood under the light and saw that it said “Sakura.” After stuffing their faces, the family headed out into the empty street and saw another light. “Cineplex” it said.

Thus a tradition was born (reversing the order is optional) and my family has certainly partaken of that tradition. But my love of Chinese food isn’t limited to Christmas alone. During any season, but especially during cooler weather, my family has been known to happily decamp to our favorite Chinese restaurants in Connecticut and New York and enjoy all of the savory delights. While shoveling in all this delicious food, I’ve noticed and been fascinated by the Chinese Zodiac imprinted on the placemat. You know–Year of the Dragon, Year of The Rat, etc. I’ve thought: Why not a Jewish tradition like it?

Imagine, then, my excitement, when I came across some wonderful new products that playfully combine Jewish food and Chinese culture–Seth Front’s The Jewish Zodiac.

Of course it’s not “The Year of the Ox” but “The Year of The Lox” I’m talking about! I love anyone who can make me laugh–and Seth’s products are just hilarious.

Here at Challah Connection, we’re proud to offer these fun, new products like The Year of the Pickle t-shirts and Year of The Black & White t-shirt. (My husband is sporting one now, but has yet to fess up to whether he is on the black side of the cookie or the white). I chatted with Seth at the recent Kosherfest where I asked him which of the amazingly creative shirts is the most popular. It’s the Year of the Pickle–that must be a new way to refer to our current economic problem. (Maybe I’ll send a shirt to President Obama and his speechwriters.)

While I love the shirts, since I am really kitchen person, I also love the Jewish Zodiac Placemats. Jewish Zodiac Placements

Last night, we set the table with these fun placemats and I could have sworn that my salad pizza had a distinct taste of broccolli with garlic sauce.

Instead of being born in the Year of the Rat or Year of the Sheep, find your Jewish zodiac sign. Were you born under the Year of the Egg Cream, Year of Pastrami, or Year of the Schmear?

Happy Shopping!



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Remembrance of things kosher

For Proust, it was the taste of madeleines that brought back memories. For me, it was the smell of tzimmes, cooking on my mother’s stove. For a friend of mine, author Cameron Stracher it was the taste of warm jello.

I had coffee with Cam the other day and he told me about how he used to love visiting his bubbe in Brooklyn. She lived in a walk-up flat and it was three flights up to get to her tiny apartment. But he and his brother and sister didn’t mind, because once they got there, the smells of her cooking filled their noses.

Chicken Soup & Matzo Balls

And pretty soon, she would be bringing out dish after dish of her Jewish specialties; Brisket, kasha varnishkes, stuffed cabbage, and always homemade babka; for dessert. So much food!

She also served a special drink that my friend had never had anywhere else. It wasn’t until years later that he and his sister figured out what it was. Warm jello!

I laughed at his story, but then I remembered similar strange things growing up. I remember my bubbe soaking fish in the bathtub—can that be?—to make gefilte fish.

What is about growing up Jewish, Cam asked, that makes so many of your memories be about food?

Potato Latkes

I think it’s because so much of our tradition is about nurturing with food, comforting with food, and even remembering that we haven’t always had enough food to eat.

So many of us, like my warm Jello drinking friend, have stories and memories that belong only to us and to our families. They tell us apart from other people like birthmarks. Maybe it’s a simple memory, like Great-Aunt Rose standing at her soup pot, tasting the chicken soup and adding just a pinch more salt. Maybe it’s more involved, like the time Grandpa hid the afikomen and forgot where he hid it…forever!

Do you have a story or a memory you’d like to share about food and growing up? I’d love to hear about it and possibly include it on Challah Connection. Please email me your story as a Word document (no more than 500 words please and if you could spell-check it, that would be helpful) for possible publication.

Best wishes and good memories,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

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All I want for Hanukkah is…

Jewish mothers, step right up and be heard if you, like me, suffer from Christmas envy. Come on, you’ve seen the ads on TV at that time of the year. Women in pink robes unwrapping gifts by the fireside, a steaming mug of cocoa nearby. There’s usually a diamond pendant or maybe a really nice cashmere sweater. The music alone on these commercials is enough to make you sob with envy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for these women, being honored by their families, and celebrating their holiday. Good for them!

It’s just…Hanukkah in my family has always been about the kids. Eight nights times three kids…I don’t need to do the math. I’m pretty sure it’s engraved on my brain. Even if we do simple gifts for seven of those nights, I’ve always wanted to mark each night with something special. For them.

Now, let me just add that I have sons. For those of you with daughters out there, it may be a different story. But for me, there hasn’t really been a Hanukkah where I have sat with a mug of cocoa. It’s more likely that I’ll be standing in with a spatula. Yelling. As in, “How many latkes can one person eat, Harry?”

I have never unwrapped a cashmere sweater under a tree or even nearby my Ficus plant.

Since my boys are now 19, 17, and 13, and since we live in an eco-friendly household where a daily attempt is made to keep trash to a minimum, we don’t really wrap presents anyway.

And over the years, my husband has given me many wonderful presents (thanks, dear!).

So if I don’t want a nice big box covered in wrapping paper, what do I want?

As I am pondering this question, my youngest son Mike comes crashing into the room, home from school. He’s so excited about something I can barely understand what he’s saying. He jumps up and down. Finally he calms down enough so that I can make out what he’s saying.

He got a part in the play.

And I got the answer to my question.

I guess (sigh) that’s what all mothers–Jewish and Christian and Muslim–want. A look of joy on her child’s face.

Hope today brings you and your family some joy,


Mike, our budding actor, in Anything Goes


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Jogging In The Rain

It was one of those days where you’d be better off staying inside and having a nice hot cup of tea. It rained. It stopped. It rained some more. The wind blew hard. Instead of viewing the weather from the couch like most reasonable people, I decided to go jogging around the track with my friend Christine. image004 Christine was stressed. For 16 years Christine had been married to Cam, her Jewish husband. And, for the first time in all those years, her mother-in-law had agreed to come to her house to celebrate a Jewish holiday.

Granted, it was Hanukkah . I didn’t mention to Christine that Hanukkah (חנוכה‬‎) had started as a very minor holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt of the Second Century BCE. To remember the fact that oil that should have only lasted one day stretched for eight days, we light the candles on the menorah each night.

I agreed that it was nice of her mother-in-law to relent and give up hosting one of the Jewish holidays. The only problem? Christine (she herself admitted) couldn’t cook to save her life.

“So,” I huffed. “What do you plan to serve?”

Wrong question. Christine sprinted on ahead on sheer adrenaline alone. I caught up with her eventually and repeated my question.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t have a clue. I’ve looked through books and the only thing I see is latkes . I can’t just serve potato pancakes.”

She looked at me hopefully. “Can I?”

A gust of wind blew my wet hair right into my face. It gave me a minute to come up with a tactful answer. “Well, usually you would serve latkes and then maybe a few other things. Maybe some applesauce and some sour cream.”

“Oh, right, she usually does have that stuff. Okay, what else?”

I suggested that she might want to include a roasted chicken, maybe some brisket, some vegetables. And then there were the desserts.

“I’m scared of the desserts,” Christine said. We stopped running. Christine was gasping for breath, either from running or from contemplating Jewish desserts.

I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. There was rugelach, there were blue-and-white cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, blue-and-white Jordan almonds, there was chocolate babka and there was dark chocolate.

Best of all, there was me , her friend, who just happened to own Challah Connection. I had her covered.

“There’s just one problem,” Christine said. “Do you have any spray that makes it smell like I baked it?”

Hmmm…that’s one for R & D.

Best wishes for good weather and good friends,



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Rosh Hashanah is sooner than you think!

Rosh Hashanah begins on Friday, September 18. And starting in late June, we threw ourselves into Rosh Hashanah planning! The end result you’ll see is a gorgeous selection of Jewish New Year gift baskets on our Challah Connection website – beautiful photos and detailed descriptions of gift baskets with a variety of items and at various price points. But did you ever wonder how we get to that end result?

It doesn’t happen overnight! Here are just some of the steps we go through:

• Brainstorm new Rosh Hashanah gift basket ideas, often with one major component as the “featured item”

• Attend the New York Fancy Food and Confectioners Show, walking for miles and evaluating a host of new products – tasting, rating packaging and product size, and reviewing kosher certifications

• Seek out other new products from magazine and online articles

• Contact manufacturers, request samples, and nosh!

• Assemble items in all sorts of configurations to determine the best mix of products in any Rosh Hashanah gift

• Work on finding the right mix of products, quantities, and costs to give you, our loyal customers, the best value possible

• Pore over basket catalogs until we find the ideal basket to hold the items we like

• Schedule appointments with our team of photographers and food stylists so we can get the best photos of our new offerings

• Write the descriptions for our new products, making sure to accurately represent the delicious items included in all of our kosher gift baskets

• Process all of this data in the necessary formats to get the product information, photos, and descriptions uploaded onto our website so you, our friends, can find the perfect Rosh Hashanah gifts!

you can see, it’s a lot to get through and takes more than a few days to get our Rosh Hashanah gift department up and running! And since so many of you become friends and customers for life, we want to continually offer you new and exciting products. We try to always keep your favorites, but want you to have the opportunity to try new things and be excited by finding the perfect Jewish New Year gift for each of your loved ones. And finding new things for you is one of the best parts of our job!

that we have finalized what our new offerings, we have a photo shoot scheduled for next week and hope to have all of our new products on the Challah Connection website shortly. Check back often – we’re always adding wonderful new things for you! And don’t hesitate to tell us if there are specific things you’re looking for that we don’t currently have. We’ll do our best to get it for you! In the meantime, we hope you are having a wonderful summer and are looking forward to celebrating Rosh Hashanah with you and wishing you all a L’Shana Tova!

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Something to Kvell About

This just makes me happy!

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