Wash U. students bake ‘Challah for hunger’


The two Washington University freshmen were very upset. Hannah Rabinowitz, from Albuquerque, and Hannah Shaffer, from Memphis, decided to take the highway for their shopping trip to Costco and “got very lost.” They almost drove into Illinois. They were also unaware that the store closed at 6 p.m. on Sundays.

They finally arrived at their destination at 6:15 p.m. They were in tears as they explained their situation to the employee at the front door. They needed to buy lots of flour to make bread to sell and raise money for relief in the Sudan and for the hungry in St. Louis. The employee let them in and they sprinted through the store with 200 pounds of flour in their shopping cart.


Rabinowitz and Shaffer are the energy behind Washington University’s chapter of the Challah for Hunger program. Rabinowitz came across the national program when she was looking at colleges.

“I really liked the program and decided to start it at Wash U,” Rabinowitz said.

Shaffer shared her enthusiasm.

“It seemed like a really cool program,” Shaffer said. “And I always had made challah with my mom.”

The national program was started by some “bored” college students just for fun and to “supplement the Shabbat dinners of the Hillel of the Claremont Colleges,” according to the organization’s Web site. The challah was a big hit and the students saw an opportunity to sell it and donate the money to help worthwhile organizations and causes.

Nationally the program has donated more than $80,000 since it started in the fall of 2004. Each participating chapter donates at least half of their profits to the organization’s one national cause: the American Jewish World Service’s Sudan Relief and Advocacy Fund. The rest of the profits are donated to a charity of their choice.

Rabinowitz and Shaffer spoke with the Jewish Student Union to help cover the start-up costs of the Washington University chapter, which is now totally self-sufficient. The two young women are astute shoppers who have learned to maximize their profits so they can donate more of its profits to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. Shaffer said they are hoping to give $1,500 to each organization each semester.

They started the program for one week during the fall semester and this semester, they hit the ground running, selling challah every week. They changed their making and baking schedule from two days to one day to avoid having to refrigerate the dough and then warm the dough and schlep it across campus. It also helps them have more time for school work.

There is a core group of about 10 students who come in every week to help make the challahs. Other students help out as their schedules permit. Shaffer said they are definitely getting a cross-section of the student population helping with the baking and with the purchasing.

“We sell the challah at the Danforth University Center,” Rabinowitz said. “Each week we sell about 60 one-pound loaves and 40 to 50 mini-challahs, which are the perfect size for lunch.”

Rabinowitz said their project is more integrated into the Washington University campus. The group recently made challahs to sell when the university participated in Relay for Life and donated those proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

“I am really proud of everyone involved in the project,” Rabinowitz said. “It is the most fun and rewarding thing I’ve done this year.”

For more information on Challah for Hunger or to make a donation email: [email protected]