I’m about to let you in on a little secret: Chabad of Alabama makes, hands down, the best challah in Birmingham. The first time I ever heard about their challah a couple of years ago, they had me “cinnamon bun challah.”
The very next Friday, I ventured over to Chabad to check it out for myself. Since then, my family and I have never looked back. This past Friday, I went back to chat with the people who make it all happen. Now I’m ready to share their secret with you.
What is challah?
To many Jewish people, challah is the special braided bread that—along with blessings, candles, and wine—ushers in the Sabbath each Friday night. For many people, it’s the bread that makes the best French toast ever. Others love to turn it into a sandwich or eat it plain. Seriously delicious.
About this little challah operation, Miriam Friedman said this:
It’s a gift to the community on Fridays. It’s a chance for us to connect with our community on Friday mornings. People come to Chabad to pick up challah and they know they’re going to meet and connect with somebody, or bring it home . . .that’s what it’s really about.
How do they make it?
Chabad’s challah making operation gears up around 4 or 5AM every Friday. It’s truly a communal effort, with Rabbi Yossi Posner taking the first shift. He makes the dough from scratch. A bit later, Rabbi Levi Weinbaum comes to help. Slowly other folks join the fun, including Rabbi Levi’s wife Mushka. She’s the one who does “the bagging and the labeling and bringing it out to sell.”
Turns out, Yossi Posner’s been making challah for decades. The Posners first came to Birmingham about 31 years ago with Chabad. Their daughter Mushka remembers “as a kid, every surface in our house was covered with challah on Thursdays.” Back then, her parents worked together on making about 40 loaves of challah.
Over the past three years, they’ve geared up to where they make 180-200 challahs per week. One week, they added specialty challahs, and those really took off. Now they have a lot of fun thinking of creative new options to offer.
During last year’s Fall Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), they made 360 challahs. Amazing.
What kinds of challah does Chabad make?
Each week, they make regular challah and specialty challah. The specialty challah changes week to week. According to Mushka Weinbaum, “we go back and forth between sweet and savory. Southerners really love the sweet ones.”
Stop by the Chabad House on Fridays between 11AM and 4PM to pick up some challah. Bring cash. It costs $5 per regular challah. Order specialty challahs in advance via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find them right next to Overton Park in Mountain Brook at 3040 Overton Rd, Birmingham, AL 35223.