The Challah Connection website offers “gourmet kosher gift baskets with Jewish traditions in mind.” What began in 1994 as a small company that delivered challah to homes and synagogues now enjoys booming success thanks to owner Jane Moritz. A photo of Moritz holding a glossy, golden brown challah loaf is stamped on every page of the Challah Connection’s site. Intrigued, we called her to chat about challah and how she made a Jewish food company so successful. She shares her challah recipe below.
How did you start the Challah Connection? My husband and I sold our advertising business nine years ago, and I decided I wanted a different career–something to do with baking. There was this company call the Challah Connection here in Westport and I thought I could use my background in direct marketing and business to grow it. I thought if people wanted challah, they’d probably want other Jewish baked goods like babke and rugelach. I bought this business and plodded along for several months, and then I got this fabulous write-up in the New York Times, so we got all these calls.
How many of your customers are Jewish? A lot of my customers aren’t Jewish. They call and they want to get the right thing–they’re sending a gift to a Jewish friend or relative, like for shiva or sympathy. There are so many people who want to understand Jews. Because I’m on the phone with them, this is my mitzvot: I’m helping people understand us.
So does challah make up the majority of your business? No. Before I took it over the Challah Connection was only doing challah. The Challah part of it is a hook – we do have challah, but it’s less and less a part of our business.
Why is that? It’s a novelty bread, which is too limiting. You use challah for Shabbat maybe. But we will always have challah. If I was starting the business today, I wouldn’t make it the 'Challah Connection.' It’s funny, last May we stopped home delivery to our customers in Westport. They asked me, “Where should we go?” I told them, you know what you really should do? Bake your own! On my website there’s a recipe you can make in a bread machine, which makes it easy.
Challah dates back to Biblical times. How would you modernize it? I think it would be really fun to work with great bakers… who use all of these wonderful and fresh flavors. Wouldn’t it be fun to experiment with it and make it more of a gourmet thing? Who says it has to be in its regular shape? If you can find chefs who are doing that kind of thing, call me.