Archive for November, 2010

Chanukah 2010.2: Menorah vs. Chanukiah

November 30, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote about the various ways people (mis)spell Chanukah.   While I have my own preference (have you figured it out yet??), I am somewhat willing to accept that other people spell it differently.  Somewhat.

The Chanukah bee that really gets in my bonnet, is when people call the candelabra we use for the holiday a Menorah rather than an Chanukiah.  Again, I’ll offer you some information and let you decide how you wish to proceed…

Exhibit A: This is a menorah.

Exhibit B: This is a Chanukiah.

Now, any kindergartener would be able to tell you these artifacts are not the same.  One has seven spots for candles, the other has nine.  The 7-stemmed Menorah was used in biblical times to symbolize the burning bush that Moses encountered in the Exodus story.  It later became a symbol of the Jewish people, one which was desecrated in the time of Judah the Maccabee.  Once the Maccabbees regained their freedom, they lit the menorah as part of their rededication of the temple.  While they had only enough oil to light the lamp for a day, by the power of the great Chanukah miracle, the fire burned for eight days.  As a result we light a special 9-branch “Menorah” called a Chanukiah this time each year as we retell the story of Judah and the magic lamp.


Chanukah 2010.1: Chanukah, Oh Hannukka(h)…

November 29, 2010

Every year around this time, I get a lot of requests for the correct spelling of Chanukah.  According to there are a dozen or more ways one might see the name for the Jewish Festival of Lights spelled.  However, my answer is always the same.

The correct spelling is in Hebrew, so all English transliterations are merely approximations.  Still, some approximations seem more correct than others.  I’ll break it down and let you make the call:

The first letter of the work is Chet, which makes a “ch” sound as in Challah (the bread).

The next letter, Nun, make a “neh” sound.  Sometimes you see one n, sometimes two.

The third letter, Vav, combined with the dot (dagesh) to its left, make an “ewe” sound, like the letter u.

The last two letters are taken together because Kaf and the vowel (kamatz) underneath it combine with the Hey at the end to make a “kah” sound.

I have my own opinion about the right way to spell Chanukah in English.  I’m sure that as you read this blog, you’ll figure out my preference.  For a pie chart on other people’s preferences, check out this link.

Challah for Hunger

November 10, 2010

"International Order of Challah Makers: For challah bakers, challah lovers, and everyone who knows what bread makes the very best french toast!" from

[I’m very excited to be writing this post!]

Over a year ago, I stumbled upon Challah for Hunger (CfH) somewhere online.  CfH is a non-profit with a straightforward mission: “Challah for Hunger raises awareness of and money for hunger and disaster relief through the production and sale of challah bread.”  I thought this program would be a perfect fit for OWU Hillel.  Afterall, some of our best times have been had in the kitchen.  With our Hamantashen for Haiti effort last year, we married that experience with social action and found that cooking can be used as the basis for tzedakah (charity).

This fall, I received an email from a young Jewish woman, Caryn, who is spending a few years in Delaware as an intern with the Public Health Department through the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  Caryn asked about the kinds of activities available through OWU Hillel and mentioned that she founded a chapter of CfH at UCLA while she was a student.  I could not believe our good fortune!  Since September, Caryn has been a supportive ally in our efforts to start a chapter of Challah for Hunger at OWU – attending meetings, sharing recipes and information, and connecting us with the national network and resources.

CfH was started in 2004 at Scripps College in California.  It was the vision of a single student who loved to bake and wanted to put her talent to work helping those in need.  Since 2004, Challah for Hunger has spread to nearly 40 campuses worldwide and has raised close to $200,000.  Each CfH chapter agrees to send 50% of it’s proceeds to American Jewish World Service for their Darfur Action Campaign.  The other half goes to an organization of the chapter members’ choosing – some local, some national, and others international.  When folks come to buy Challah, they are presented with information about these efforts and ways to get involved in voicing concern and support.  In the words of CfH founder Eli Winkelman, “Our sales table is not just a bake sale, it is a learning opportunity” (WeJew interview, see link below.)

As Bill Clinton mentioned in his discussion of CfH in his book Giving, Challah for Hunger is an interfaith venture.  “I find this effort particularly touching and relevant because it was started by a Jewish student, and is funded by the sales of traditional Jewish bread for the benefit of poor Muslims whose plight has been ignored for too long by Muslim nations much closer to them” (cited @ CfH).  Likewise, we hope that students of all faiths and no faith will participate in this effort at OWU.

In fact, OWU Hillel President Caroline Miller and University Chaplain Jon Powers will be including Challah for Hunger in their response to President Obama’s call for campus-based interfaith action.  (See more about this in upcoming months and read about the Interfaith Youth Core in my previous post.)  We look forward to kneading, braiding, and baking bread with all of you.

CfH @ OWU will begin Spring 2011.  If you or your organization would like to volunteer, please let us know – Email Caroline ( or Jodi (  We’ll be running a trial baking session November 17th – Big shout out to Gene Castelli and the catering staff for their support and cooperation!  Free samples will be passed out around campus on Thursday, November 18th – cash donations welcome.

Learn more about Challah for Hunger all over the www including:

@ Challah for Hunger

@ Jewcy – An interview with CfH founder Eli Winkelman

WeJew – Interview with Winkelman, views of CfH in Action, and Bill Clinton on CfH

Interfaith Youth Core Leadership

November 5, 2010

The weekend of October 22nd, OWU Hillel President Caroline Miller took a ride with University Chaplain Jon Powers to the Washington, D.C.  This was not a spontaneous site-seeing trip.  This trip required advanced background checks by the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security.  The pair’s final destination: The Interfaith Youth Core‘s Interfaith Leadership Institute at the White House.

The IFYC was founded about 10 years ago by Eboo Patel, President of Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based Neighborhood Partnerships.  The non-profit program runs workshops and provides advice for national and international initiatives to foster inter-religious understanding and tolerance.  The conference in Washington was part of the group’s Campus Partnership program.

Caroline and the Chaplain were part of a select few (200 students and 100 faculty and staff representing all 50 states and 131 schools) invited to participate in this conference. The underlying premise; religion is a powerful force that can unite and divide people.  The goal; to start a nationwide effort to make interfaith dialogue, respect, and collaboration the norm through the IFYC’s Better Together initiative.  (Read more about it in The Washington Post.)

In her application essay, Caroline described her past experiences with interfaith dialogue as strained, but she remained optimistic.

“Since coming to Ohio Wesleyan, a very diverse campus indeed with about a full quarter of our small student body being international, my eyes have seen people of all backgrounds becoming friends, my lips have tasted delicious foreign foods and my ears have heard a lot of discomfort to those unaware of the beauty of interfaith discussion…

While our campus is extremely diverse in its ethnic and religious denominations, there is not much interaction amongst them…

This theme of interfaith cooperation has not just become a fascination, it has become a way of life … People are scared of what they don’t know. By fostering these types of open and safe dialogues we can remove the fear and replace it with faith.”

Caroline and other student leaders at OWU will be promoting Interfaith activity and conversation throughout the school year.  Look for more news about a speaker in January and a campus-wide celebration of diversity, akin to the Love Day on the Jay, this spring.

IN THE NEXT OWUJEW POST: Challah for Hunger, a Hillel/Interfaith Initiative coming soon to OWU!  For information on this concept, go to