Challah for Hunger bakes its way to success

During one Wednesday night at the N.C. Hillel building on 210 W. Cameron Ave., the crew baking bread for the UNC chapter of Challah for Hunger feared that something had gone very wrong.

“We had finished baking early and we were worried that we had missed a step,” said co-president Shayna Bernstein. “It turned out it was only because everyone worked so well together and made the whole process run smoothly.”

For Bernstein, a junior from Charlotte majoring in anthropology and American studies, and her co-president, sophomore and pre-business major from Cleveland, Ohio, Sara Desberg, that significant moment served as testimony to how much Challah for Hunger had grown in a short time.

Last fall, one of their mutual friends from Hillel approached them about starting a chapter at UNC. With no space, money or people, the two needed to work together to make their idea a reality, including learning how other chapters function at a leadership summit with more than 40 representatives of other chapters. They now welcome more than 20 different volunteers every week.

UNC’s chapter is only one of 50 in the world, including two in Australia and one in England. Since its founding in 2004 at the Claremont Colleges in California, Challah for Hunger has raised almost $300,000 in total for hunger and disaster relief.

Bernstein and Desberg have set a $5,000 goal for this year’s challah sales at UNC, and they hope to join with other local organizations to fight hunger.

They currently support Students for Students International (S4Si), a student organization whose mission is to create educational opportunities for high-achieving students in the developing world. Last semester, they raised more than $1,000 for the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Carrboro and the American Jewish World Service’s Sudan Relief and Advocacy Fund, Challah for Hunger’s overall cause.

For now, Bernstein and Desberg are taking their nascent organization step by step. They and other volunteers bake every other Wednesday at N.C. Hillel and sell their challah (plain, sesame, chocolate chip, cinnamon sugar and, recently, pumpkin chocolate chip) for $4 in the Pit the following Thursday. They have finished baking challah for the semester but are looking forward to starting again after the new year starts.

“My favorite part of Challah for Hunger is meeting new people,” said Bernstein. “They may not necessarily be involved with Hillel, but they’re just people who want to bake like me.”

“It’s like a family,” agreed Desberg. “It reminds a lot of us of home.”