Cherry Hill Second-Grader Fights Hunger Making Challah

Source: Jewish Voice NJ

Among the many initiatives inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, “Challah Back For More” is unique because it was founded by a mother-daughter team: Stephanie Weiss and her daughter, Jayda, 8. Together, the duo have raised over $1,000 to fight hunger in South Jersey by baking and selling homemade challah.

Though only a second grader at Johnson Elementary School, Jayda is already a pro chef in the making. Likely, she inherited her love of cooking and baking from Stephanie, an accomplished chef in her own right who once owned her own chocolate business.

“She’s always had a passion for baking and cooking. She saw a magazine and said, ‘I want to bake that cake,’ and she made it,” Stephanie recalled. “She bakes anything, and she knows how to use everything. She has her own plastic knife set, and she’s taken knife and safety skills classes, and online cooking classes.”

Their project started a year ago, they decided to take advantage of the extra time at home by celebrating Shabbat as a family every week, including baking challah for grandparents and extended family. The response was so positive that Jayda decided to make a few extra challahs while Stephanie placed them up for order on social media, with proceeds going to a food pantry.

Almost immediately, their project began to grow. Through group texts and Facebook posts, they received regular orders and made up to 20 challahs every week to order for pickup on Fridays. They donated the first $150 they raised to the Food Bank of South Jersey. As they continued their initiative, they made donations to various food banks, including the Betsy & Peter Fischer Food Pantries at Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey. Bringing the check to JFCS was meaningful for Jayda, who was learning about food scarcity within her own community.

“She realized that kids in Cherry Hill, kids in her own school, don’t have food,” said Stephanie. “This is a big thing for her to help others.”

Working on this project together was a perfect opportunity for Jayda to practice her kitchen skills while learning useful math and science concepts. “Jayda’s very into math and science, so we were able to learn about measurements, fractions, and how to double and triple recipes,” Stephanie said. “There’s lots of exposure to different types of things when you’re cooking and baking.”

Running “Challah Back for More” has been a bonding experience for Stephanie and Jayda and a learning opportunity about the importance of helping others. “There’s a quote that resonates with me from Booker T. Washington: ‘Those who are the happiest are those who do the most for others,’” Stephanie said. If this is the case, then Jayda and her family are likely very happy indeed.

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