Rose Genstein ‘24 (left) and Hailey Kraft ‘23 (right) attended the Hillel Challah Bake on Sept. 14 to celebrate the upcoming Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah. The Hillel also held an apple picking event as Rosh Hashanah represents the Jewish new year and is celebrated with sweet foods such as apples and honey. (Courtesy of Brooke Dunoff)

Lehigh Hillel’s annual Challah Bake comforts students by curating community


Lehigh Hillel invited students to gather and make challah bread as a way to share in community while giving back to it.

Rabbi Steve Nathan said Lehigh Hillel’s annual Challah Bake is meant to destress students and allow for a sense of comfort. The annual event was held at the Hillel house on West Packer Avenue on Sept. 15. 

“How many people here know how to braid hair?” Nathan said the crowd of students. 

Many attendees nodded their heads “yes,” as Nathan gave an introduction to the history of braiding challah.

Challah is a braided bread that is typically eaten on Jewish religious occasions. Nathan said the significance of challah comes from biblical times. The dough is traditionally braided using three sections, which  symbolize truth, peace and justice. 

“All challah is a braided form of bread which is popular in the Middle East,” Nathan said. “It is so delicious when it is ready to be eaten!”

Tyler Katz, engagement and programming associate for Hillel, said the organization is constantly trying to find new ways to get more students involved. 

He said it is important to Hillel to incorporate community service into their programming.

“A concept in Judaism called Tikkun Olam is about repairing the world and making it a better place,” Katz said. “A great way to do that is through food. Challah is delicious, gets students involved and is tying community service into something meaningful and fun.”

The Challah Bake is a community oriented day, as much of the challah that is baked is donated afterward.

Nathan said Hillel is no stranger to community service. This year, they hosted an apple picking event, High Holiday Apple Picking with Hillel, at Grim’s Orchard where Hillel members then donated the apples to local food banks to “signify a sweet New Year.” 

Rose Genstein, ‘24, said being involved with the Jewish community at Lehigh has always been important to her. It means even more to her when there is a community service event involved, she said. 

“I didn’t always find a place where I belonged as a Jew, especially freshman year during (COVID-19),” Genstein said. “But Hillel helped me fall in love with Judaism again and has been such a nice way to get involved on campus.” 

Katz said last year, Hillel used a grant to take a tour of historic Jewish sites in New York City, where they toured the Jewish Heritage Museum, visited kosher restaurants and went on walking tours. 

Elisa Lipkin, ‘24, co-director of Hillel, said the challah bake is a great way to involve first-year students because it is a 5×10 event. 5×10 is a programming series open to all Lehigh students, focusing on first-year students and building their connection to Lehigh. 

“I joined Hillel as a freshman looking for a sense of community, and that is exactly what I found,” Lipkin said. “Celebrating the holidays while doing a good deed is what makes Hillel so special.” 

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