Hanukkah Traditions

What is Hanukkah About?

Hanukkah is about way more than giving Jewish holiday gifts and eating delicious treats like potato latkes. It’s easy to lose track of the real meaning behind the holidays when so many new holiday traditions are always being created. But let’s take a moment and remember what Hanukkah is all about: it’s a Jewish holiday celebrating the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greeks, who were trying to wipe out the practice of Judaism.

The Greeks had taken over the Jewish temple and dedicated it to the worship of Zeus and other gods for several years. The temple had even had pigs sacrificed in its midst, obviously a particularly painful slight for the Jews who had worshiped there.

In 167 B.C.E. Antiochus, the Syrian-Greek emperor, made observing Judaism a crime. It was punishable by death! He ordered the Jews to worship his Greek gods, and had his soldiers approach Jewish townspeople to get them to bow down to an idol, and then eat the flesh of a pig. As you can well imagine, this outraged the Jews, of course. One of their High Priests, Mattathias, refused to bow down. He and his five sons began attacking the soldiers, setting off a large battle.

When eventually they won this battle, the Maccabees (as they came to be called) rededicated the holy Temple in Jerusalem.  It had to be purified with ritual oil burned in the temple’s menorah. There was only enough oil to last one day as the Eternal Flame, but it miraculously burned for eight days. Thus, the 8 days of Hanukkah!

Do you know what the word “Hanukkah” actually means? This Hebrew word means “dedication,” since this Jewish holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple. One of the funny things about this holiday is its many spellings. Is it Hanukkah? Chanukkah? Or Hannukkah? Since it’s transliterated, it really doesn’t matter! But however you spell it, this is one Jewish holiday everyone loves to celebrate.  Because Hanukkah is all about the miracle of the oil, we use oil in our cooking. The delicious fried foods we make to celebrate include donuts, “sufganiyot,” and potato latkes.

So this year, follow our recipe for delicious potato latkes and while they’re crackling in the pan, take a moment to reflect on the real meaning of Hanukkah: the re-dedication of the temple, and the miracle of the survival of Judaism!

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Rosh Hashana Gifts for Little Tots

Even the smallest of tots likes to join in the celebratory atmosphere of the Jewish New Year. If you’re looking for a great gift idea that’s appropriate for your special child’s first, second or third Rosh Hashana celebration, here are some to consider.

Toddler gift for Rosh HashanaRosh Hashana Gift For kids under 2:

Our Soft Rosh Hashana Gift Set has 8 plush pieces the little guys will love. They can play with the shofar, pretend to light the candles, and dip a plus red apple into the  honey “jar.” Two challot and a kiddush cup complete the set. They’ll love it!

Rosh Hashana Puzzle for Kids over 2:

Rosh Hashana gift for children

This beautiful 30-piece jigsaw puzzle is great for kids age 2 and over. It will help them learn about Rosh Hashanah histories and traditions, and they’ll love its cheerful artwork. It’s a great way to interact with children or grandchildren while you help them learn about the Jewish New Year and its importance.

Rosh Hashana Gift for Kids Over 4:

Rosh Hashana Gift for ChildrenThey’ll love this fun set of Shofars! Get them practicing early and learning the tradition of blowing the shofar to welcome the New Year.

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Just the Right Gifts for Rosh Hashana

rosh hashana breakfast basketHostess Gifts for Rosh Hashana

So you’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a delicious meal to kick off the Jewish New Year – now what can you do to say “thank you”?

After cooking for the Rosh Hashana crowd, your hosts won’t want to think about cooking the next meal! So surprise them with a perfect New Year’s breakfast! Send a Rosh Hashana gift basket including a delicious honey cake, some Bellagio coffee and an assortment of teas, and a jar of Sarabeth’s honey. Instead of dreading the post-meal dish washing, they will go to bed dreaming about a delicious, no-fuss breakfast you’ve provided. And you’ll be the first guest they invite back to break the fast!

Jewish New Year Gifts for the College Crowd

Rosh Hashana tower gift for college students

New college Freshmen can feel lonely on Rosh Hashana. For many it’s their first Jewish holiday spent away from home. Sending a gift for them to share with roommates, dorm residents and friends will kick off their New Year with joy. Everyone loves getting that little “you’ve got a package” slip in their college mailbox. Challah Connection’s Tower of Tradition gives them an exciting bunch of delicious little packages to unwrap and enjoy. They’ve love the traditional fresh apples and honey, rugelach, and amazing chocolate caramel apples. It’s a great way to share their Jewish traditions with college buddies. Or choose to send them a basket of Rosh Hashana essentials: challah, apples and honey, babka and rugelah (yes, we consider rugelah “essential”!). We have many other kosher gift baskets to choose from, too – just visit the website.

Kosher Gifts for Corporate Giving

Corporate gift for Rosh Hashana Jewish New Year

If you’re in need of a Jewish New Year gift for colleagues or clients, especially if you need a kosher gift, our elegant wine gift crate will always be a hit. A bottle of Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon, delicious smoked sockeye salmon and flatbread crackers, some rugelach and fancy cashew nuts as well as a box of chocolate truffles – what could be a better way to say Happy New Year? The dark seagrass tray is a stylish accessory they’ll want to hold on to. It will always remind them of your thoughtful gesture.

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The Perfect Rosh Hashana Apple Cake

Entertaining for Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana is one of my favorite holidays. It gives us a perfect excuse to invite friends, neighbors, and fellow congregants over for a celebratory meal. But sometimes the deadline of attending services can make entertaining with a full meal feel rushed. Wish you could still celebrate with friends, but make it easier and more manageable? Here’s an idea: open your home for a quick, sweet nosh of dessert and coffee. That way you can invite as many visitors as you feel like celebrating the Jewish New Year with.

Rosh Hashana Apple Cake

Have an apple cake delivered, plate it up, and you've got an instant Rosh Hashana celebration!

If you’re thinking of having a gathering to celebrate Rosh Hashana, a delicious apple cake is the perfect thing to serve. If you’re looking for the easiest way to entertain, you can order a Rosh Hashana Apple Cake and all you have to do is find the right serving plate! Our kosher apple cake is so delicious, it was featured in the New York Times. Delicious and moist, with no trans fat!

A Simple, Delicious Apple Cake Recipe

Want to make your own? Here’s my favorite recipe for the perfect Rosh Hashana Apple Cake. You can print this apple cake recipe and keep it on hand, because it’s also a great ending for your Yom Kippur meal!

The Jewish New Year is also a great time to send a kosher gift basket to someone special. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness! Some people you might not have thought of who’d love this gift: your temple youth group coordinator, Sisterhood president, or even the temple caretaker. Start the year off right by doing a mitzvah and recognizing their hard work and volunteer time. Send a kosher gift basket that includes our delicious apple cake, and they’ll remember your thoughtfulness all year long!

 

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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,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane

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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