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Shiva Gift Giving Frequently Asked Questions from Challah Connection

Sending a sympathy or shiva gift is certainly one of life’s most difficult tasks. What makes it difficult is our own unease with death combined with a feeling of helplessness—“how can I truly help?” This is particularly so when the death is a tragedy. But as we all know death and even tragedy is part of life.

Here at Challah Connection, we have been helping gift givers send shiva and sympathy gifts for over 10 years. This experience combined with our own mourning for loved ones we have personally lost, makes us particularly well versed in this sorrowful area.

Following are some of the most commonly asked questions by both Jews and non Jews alike, who are attempting to console those in mourning with a special gift.

What Is Shiva?
Shiva is the 7 day Jewish mourning period. During shiva, friends and family visit those who are mourning as an act of support and friendship. Visitors, along with the mourners sit, nosh (eat) and through conversation, celebrate the life that has ended.

When Is Shiva?
A shiva schedule is typically announced at the funeral or obituary. Although shiva is 7 days, many mourners shorten the period. Shiva is never on Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. The first Shiva typically begins after the funeral, which is often followed by the burial. Funerals often start between 11am – 2pm and are around an hour. The burial is on average, another 2-3 hours depending on the distance of the cemetery from the funeral (often in Synagogue or Funeral Home). First shiva can begin anywhere from 4:30pm to 7pm and doesn’t usually last past 9 or so.

I am going to the shiva, to make a shiva call, what should I expect?
Shiva is a sad occasion but you should not feel nervous or uncomfortable. Just being there is enough; you need not worry about saying the “right” thing. If not sure what to say or how to act, it’s best to say little. However, you can never go wrong by being supportive and helpful: “Anyone need a drink?” “Can I help clean up?” “How are you feeling?”

What should I bring to shiva?
Bring food that can easily be served and shared. Avoid food that requires work on the part of the mourners. Kosher cookies, cakes, candies, nuts are all welcome at shiva as long as they are crowd pleasers and easy to serve.

I am far away and can’t go to shiva, what should I do?
Send a card or food-a shiva gift basket. Never send flowers! Shiva gifts should be foods that are well liked by many (don’t forget young kids, if they are part of the mourning family) and easy to serve. Our 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket.

When should the gift arrive?
Ideally, the earliest your gift should arrive is the first day of shiva, which is usually the day of the funeral and burial. Shiva gifts are welcome anytime during the shiva period and even beyond (see next question).

What if I have missed the official shiva period, should I still send a gift?
Although the official shiva period is over, the family will still be receiving visitors and food will be needed to feed them. Sending a gift at this time is completely acceptable and shows your care.

What is your best selling shiva gift basket?
In order of popularity, our top 3 most popular shiva gifts are Sympathy Comfort Gift Basket, Sympathy Essentials and Caring Conversation Shiva Basket. Also very popular is our Sympathy Dried Fruit and Nut Tray, Thoughtful Condolence Basket, Baklava Assortment and more which you can see here.

How Do I Choose A Gift?
All of our shiva gifts are time tested and we know that shiva families truly appreciate them. Your choice should be based on your allowable budget (don’t forget shipping), any personal preferences you may have and/or any dietary restrictions of the shiva family that you are aware of. We are always happy to help you make your selection.

Does My Shiva Gift Need to be Kosher?
Sending a kosher gift is a recommended. Even if the mourners are not kosher observant, it is quite possible that some of the attendees are. Shiva is not a time for inconvenience or difficult moments. At Challah Connection, all of our shiva gifts are certified kosher. Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K.

Do You Carry Glatt Kosher Shiva Gifts?
Most of our foods are certified with high level certifications including OU, OK, STAR K, which are suitable for those who require the highest level (Glatt) kashrut. If you require such a basket, please let us know and we will be sure that only foods of the highest certification are included.

What Should the Gift Message Say?
For most of us, this is perhaps the hardest part of sending a sympathy or shiva gift. Often, we try to convey too much into the message. Keeping your message simple is key. Following are some of our most frequently used gift messages. Feel free to use as is or with your own personal touch. Don’t forget to sign your name!

-With heartfelt sympathy
-Our thoughts are prayers are with you during this difficult time
-We are so sorry for your loss and send our warmest condolences to you and your family
-May [name of deceased] be a blessing to all who knew him/her
-May G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem

Where should the shiva gift be sent?
Shiva very rarely takes place at a funeral home (actually we have never heard of this happening). Shiva usually takes place at the home of a family member. This is where the shiva gift should be sent.

How should I address the gift—to my friend? To the entire family?
While you may have a specific friend or colleague in mourning, it is a nice gesture to address the gift to the entire family. For example, instead of Ms. Suzie Miller, The Miller Family.

If you are sending a gift to someone who is staying with friends or family, you can address it as follows: The Miller Family, c/o The XYZ Family.

Any questions? Need help placing your order? Please call us at 866-242-5524 or email:

©2013, Challah Connection, Westport, CT. All rights reserved.

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Challah Connection is 10 Years Old!






Dear Challah Connection Friends,

It’s true, I’m kvelling. I am surrounded by my family of men (husband and 3 sons) and a solid, growing company that is 10 years old. I feel very blessed, especially in the difficult economic environment we are living in.

When I founded Challah Connection back in 2002, I felt in my heart that you would enjoy sharing traditional Jewish gifts as much as I enjoyed creating them for you.

Little did I know that 10 years later, Challah Connection, with our sister company Kosher Gift Box, would become the leading e-commerce company in the kosher gift-giving market.

Over the years, you have shared your gift ideas, compliments, critiques and recipes and have been active participants in our growth. As a result, we have been able to create a successful company that is clear in its mission and focussed on providing you with unparalleled products and service. I truly thank you and am proud of our accomplishment.

I look forward to sharing many more holidays and gift giving occasions with you over the next decades. Thanks again for all of your continued support!

With love,









P.S. That’s me at a challah baking class in Jerusalem this summer. I learned how to make a challah flower. Love it!

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Exciting New Kosher Gifts for Rosh Hashanah

The summer sure is flying by, isn’t it?  Here at the Challah Connection we’re busy gearing up for our favorite time of year – Rosh Hashanah!  In 2012, the Jewish New Year will be celebrated on September 15.  It’s a great time for gift giving and sharing wishes for a sweet, happy and healthy year to come.

I especially love this holiday because it gives me the chance to get creative with our gift baskets.  Each year we are able to offer more options so that there is something for everyone on your list.  Be sure to request a catalog so you can see all of the exciting new Kosher gift baskets and Kosher gifts I’ve been cooking up.

Here are a few notable ones:

The Rosh Hashanah Breakfast Basket (RHBRBASK) is filled with all you need to start the day, and the New Year, with sweetness and happiness – especially because we are so lucky to have Rosh Hashanah fall on a weekend this year!  We are also excited about featuring Sarabeth Chunky Apple Spread.  For those of you who don’t know, Sarabeth is a famous chef who got her start on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  This gourmet spread features all natural ingredients.

 The Macaroon Gift Box (MACGIFTBOX) is a delicious assortment of four different types of chocolate-covered macaroons.  It’s perfect as a gift for sharing or just for yourself.

Life on the Lower East Side (BKLOE) is a moving collection of photographs taken by Rebecca Lepkoff between 1937 and 1950.  Together they give an authentic impression of what life was like in this Manhattan neighborhood of immigrants.


Two CDs by the favorite Klezmer band make up this Metropolitan Klezmer Set (KLEZSET).  Experience both their concert performances and humor with a live album, as well as a joyful, upbeat and perfectly put together studio album.

And of course we would never forget about the kids when putting together new Rosh Hashanah gifts.  The Rosh Hashanah Puzzle (RHPUZ) is a colorful and educational 30-piece wooden jigsaw.  Kids will love to learn about the history and traditions of the Jewish New Year as they put it together!


Don’t forget to check our website for new, exciting, creative Kosher Rosh Hashanah gifts.  And be sure to sign up to be on our mailing list to receive exclusive deals via email!  It’s never too early to get organized for the New Year to make sure everybody on your list gets something special.  As always, we have just what you’re looking for when it comes to Jewish gifts and kosher gift baskets.


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Bagel vs. Crepe, Which Will Win?

An industrious couple in Brighton Beach is giving the bagel a run for it’s money.

Will the down-to-earth NYC bagel stay the supreme schmear-vehicle or will it be the elegant crepe as the ultimate roll up? Basically, same ingredients; one more fattening then the other with the key difference that you put your topping ON instead of IN (of course, that’s not the only differences, but the main ones).

What’s your vote? For the complete article, click here.

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Trader Joe’s Chip Change – Where Do You Stand?

You may or may not have heard that earlier this month, Trader Joe’s sparked national outcry when it changed the Kosher certification of its chocolate chips from Pareve to Dairy.  Kosher observers everywhere are rushing to clear the shelves of the original chips before they are replaced with their dairy counterpart, with some buying as many as 90 bags in one trip.  So much commotion has been caused that the internet seems to be full of consumers speaking out against the change; the Wall Street Journal even wrote an extensive article and reported that (as of one week ago) more than 4,200 had signed an online petition to reverse the decision.  Both Trader Joe’s and the Orthodox Union have received “hundreds” of letters and voicemails.

Trader Joe’s reported in a statement that the ingredients of the morsels had not changed, only the bagging process.  In an effort to save money, the manufacturer has reportedly eliminated a cleaning step of the conveyor belt between the bagging of dairy chips and the previously-pareve TJ chips.  Many industry experts believe that the voiced disappointment will not go unnoticed by the company, and that a revised processing plan should emerge, allowing the chips to once again be labeled Pareve.

The issue at hand – the reason those who eat Kosher diets noticed the change immediately – is that according to Kosher laws, dairy and meat may not be consumed together (or within three hours of each other, for that matter).  The old chips allowed customers to eat and bake with the chips without having to worry about eating meat with a meal before or after, as they were dairy-free.

As kosher gift baskets are my business, I, Jane, pay attention to these kinds of things happening in the news.  What do you, Challah Connection readers, think?  Does this change affect the way your family enjoys desserts?  Will you need to shop elsewhere?  Did you notice the change at all?

While some concerned patrons argue that TJ’s chips were the only mainstream, high-quality pareve produce available, I actually prefer other types of chocolate chips to the TJ brand.  Nestle and Callebaut are two of my favorites, and they are both certified Kosher Dairy.

Let us know what you think!  And feel free to include your favorite chocolate chip recipe – whether it’s for cookies, muffins or a cake; vegan, dairy, or gluten free, we want to hear it!


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The Land of Milk and Honey–What Does It Mean?

The phrase “land of milk and honey” is one that many of us have heard before. First mentioned in the book of Exodus as a description of Israel’s agricultural abundance, it was Moses’s destination while leading Jews out of Egypt.

Since then, it has become a visual metaphor for all things flowing and abundant. It is a term that conjures up pure pleasure including freedom, delicious, birth, fertility and more.

Order Cheesecake By 2PM, EST Thursday, May 24
Marble truffle cheesecakeThe holiday of Shavuot begins this Saturday, May 26 and celebrates the giving of the Torah* at Mt. Sinai, and the season’s first harvest of fruits. It’s customary to eat a dairy meal on Shavuot, reminding us of the land of milk and honey.

Favorite dairy dishes are blintzes, lasagna, noodle kugel, cottage cheese pancakes and cheesecake. As a matter of fact, cheesecake has become the most popular Shavuot dessert. Our cheesecakes, all OU, Dairy, are shipped nationwide. Last day to order for delivery at the start of Shavuot is Thursday, 2PM EST. Of course, cheesecake is also a Memorial Day favorite.

* the Torah is the primary “Jewish document” showing Jews how to act, feel and participate in every aspect of life and death. It is the “blueprint” for Jewish life and death.

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Cook Something Fabulous for Mom

This Mother’s Day, give Mom something really special: some of your home cooking. I’m not talking about a 5 course meal, although that is certainly fine. I’m thinking about 1 very special “something”
that will bring smiles and tears of happiness to her eyes.

Here are 3 delicious ideas, recipes included. Naturally, you’ll have to select your “project” based on Mom’s locale and whether you can cook “in person” or need to send your gift:
1) Apple Cake: I have baked this recipe about 5 times in the last few months. It is always outstanding and my family and I love it. Ships easily.
Challah French Toast2) Challah French Toast and Cottage Cheese Pancakes are both outstanding brunch dishes. Just add coffee, orange juice and fresh fruit and you have terrific meal!
3) Tomato and Onion Tart is a savory dish that can be served for brunch or lunch. Pair it with a salad, glass of white white and you’re done!

This Mother’s Day, I will be in Pennsylvania at my son’s college graduation–a terrific Mother’s Day. But the weekend after, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom and Mother-in-law. I will definitely be cooking for that!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Hats Off to Frieda

Do you know who is the visionary that brought exotic fruits to your supermarket shelves? Honestly, I had never thought about it, until today. Freida Caplan, who is 88 years old, started her business, Frieda’s Specialty Product,  50 years ago. The first female business owner at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market, she made her mark for her interest in unusual fruits and veggies. Freida is most known for bringing Kiwifruit to the US but spaghetti squash and Asian pears are also tied to her legacy. I thank Frieda for her out-of-the box thinking as well as confidence that these products would appeal to us. Indeed they do!

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Charoset 2012 Recipe Scramble

Passover Begins April 6–Get Your Culinary Juices Flowing

When it comes to making the Passover Seder Plate, most of us take a task oriented approach: Roasted Egg? Check, Horseradish? Check. Shank bone? Check. You get what I mean: it’s one of the seder tables’ most important items but making it is all about following the list of ingredients rather then how each looks or taste. Actually, the seder plate does have an opportunity for culinary creativity: CHAROSET*.

Announcing Our Newest Recipe Scramble:  Charoset 2012

Here’s how it works: Following are 5 categories of ingredients: fruits, spices, nuts and seeds, liquids and “glue.” To enter our recipe scramble, select a minimum of 4 ingredients from any of the categories, to create a charoset that you would enjoy. Don’t see an ingredient you want? Add it!

 There are only 2 requirements to follow: 1) that it have a mortar-like consistency and 2) that it be tasty enough to be enjoyed. Sweet or savory are ok.


(fresh or dried)

Spices Nuts & Seeds Liquids “Glue”
Dates Cinnamon Almonds Red Wine Almond butter
Apricots Curry Power Walnuts Grape Juice Cashew Butter
Raisins Ginger Sesame Seeds Soy Milk Mashed egg yolk
Apples Tumeric Roasted Edamame Almond Milk Matzo Meal
Pears Cardomom Pomegranate Juice Avocado
Prunes Cumin Lemon Juice
Figs Coriander Lime Juice
Bananas Fresh Orange Juice with Pulp
Fresh Ginger

RULES: By March 27, post your charoset recipe in the comments section of our blog or email it to Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner along any other interesting facts related to your recipe. If emailing, include subject line: “Charoset 2012.” Recipes will be judged based on creativity, originality and ease of use. Winners will be announced on March 29. If you are a winner, we will email to notify you and at that time get your name and shipping address so we can send your prize.

PRIZES: First prize wins our fabulous Passover Fruit Basket (value $89.99) Second and Third prize wins a family gift box of 8 parve dark chocolate kosher for Passover bars from Matzel Toff! (Value $31) Prizes will be shipped to you or a recipient that you choose (US shipping only)!

CHAROSET 2012 sponsored by CHALLAH CONNECTION and our friends at MATZEL TOFF!

*What is Charoset? It’s typically a combination of chopped apples, walnuts and red wine that signifies the mortar to make bricks used by enslaved Jews in Egypt. It is one of the symbolic foods that we eat at Passover to remind us that we were once slaves but are now free.

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Purim, Hamentashen and College Kids

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Purim.

That goes for everyone of course, but most certainly college kids. Purim is about celebrating and partying and who does that better then college kids? (not that I am altogether thrilled with their abilities in this area)

As a mom of 3, 2 of whom are in college, I can attest to their love of having fun and here’s my point: hamentashen, challah, babka and black and white cookies are part of the fun!

Let’s just take my older son Sam (#2 Harry is an art student and seems to have far more limited time for partying-ok by me). Sam is a senior at a small liberal arts college where there are not too many Jewish kids. He was also the President of his fraternity. These 2 distinctions are what has taught me what I know–that everyone–Catholic, Buddist, Protestant, Atheist–loves our favorite “Jewish” baked goods. Over the last 4 years, I have sent enough challah and babka to fill all of the frat houses on campus and I am pleased to say that over the years I have received so many thank you emails and seen many posts on Sam’s facebook page like–“need challah”, or “where’s the hamentashen bro” “get your ma to send some brisket.” Of course I am kvelling. Fedex and I have singlehandedly introduced these yummies to people who had never had them and now they are clamoring for more.

As the good mom that I try to be, with admittedly easier access to the goods then most of you, yesterday I packed up good sized Purim gifts for both my boys. They’ll be getting all the favorites–challah, babka, hamentashen and Purim blowers. And of course there is plenty to share with their friends. Can’t wait to see the posts and tweets!

So if you want to wow your child and his or her friends, come to and shop away. Purim is on March 8, but there is still time to order for on time delivery. You can put together your own Purim Gift or choose one of these shown here (my personal favorites). Happy Purim!!

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