“The loaves just came out of the oven,” says Jonathan Panzer, born salesman. “Would you like to procure a challah?”
The smell of just-baked challah—the braided, egg-glazed bread Jews traditionally serve on Fridays, at the beginning of the Sabbath—is irresistible. This is a bread for ripping into bits and eating in the car, long before you get to anything as civilized as a bread knife.
That’s what Panzer counts on. As founder of the University of Texas branch of the nonprofit Challah for Hunger organization, he and a few volunteers bake 75 challahs each week, selling them on Thursday lunch hours at UT’s West Mall.
“Eighty-one percent of every dollar we take in goes to stop the genocide in Darfur,” Panzer explains. “Sure, the challahs are five bucks, but it’s cheaper than Wendy’s.” The price drops to three dollars if you write a letter to a government representative about the situation in Darfur—an easy job if you use the preprinted forms at the Challah for Hunger stand.
Austinite Elizabeth Winkleman was an undergraduate at Claremont College when she thought up the idea of baking and selling bread to feed the hungry. Two years ago, using her family recipe and a kitchen made available by the campus Hillel, she quickly attracted a corps of volunteers. The Austin chapter, founded by Panzer in 2006, also relies on Hillel for a kitchen and a pipeline to the American Jewish World Service’s Emergency Appeal for Darfur. To date, the two groups have raised $20,000, and they’re fielding inquiries from other colleges.
“We sell to professors, students, people who make a special trip from Georgetown, everyone,” Panzer says, “and not necessarily Jews.”
As part of a plan to double sales in 2008, UT’s Challah for Hunger will add specialty flavors to its standard plain and chocolate-chip loaves. Panzer’s clearly enjoying the experiment. Mint chocolate chip and cinnamon-raisin, he says, tested well. The PB & J, however, was “extraordinarily messy.”
But never mind. At Challah for Hunger, trying to clean up a big mess comes naturally.
Find Challah for Hunger Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UT’s West Mall. For more information, go to challahforhunger.org or call Texas Hillel at 512-476-0125.