January 27, 2014

Breaking bread: Challah as a sign of the times

Breaking bread: Challah as a sign of the times

Peer Challot © 2013 by Heddy Abramowitz

Not that I bake as often as I would like. The best of the local bakeries are so good it seems like a superfluous task.
Bread baking is more than a cold weather thing in Judaism. Flour, water, leavening and eggs, and some spiritual elements are the alchemy that combines to make challah, the traditional braided loaves that are an integral part of the weekly Sabbath (Shabbat) and holiday meals.
It was with those thoughts in mind that I responded to curator, Laura Kruger’s, invitation to tackle the subject of challah for the current exhibit at the Hebrew Union College Museum in lower Manhattan, “The Seventh Day: Revisiting Shabbat.” The exhibit explores contemporary takes on the Shabbat day in art and the catalogue can be viewed here.

I set out to make a personal album of bakeries that are stations in my routine. The four selected photographs culled from that album are on display in the exhibition which is running the entire academic year.
Baking challah in Judaism is not, in itself, an act of religious observance. However, the commandment “to take challah” is one of the three observances that are specifically associated with women in traditional Judaism and is biblical in origin.

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