by Stephanie Gibson Lepore
Content Director, Bham Family magazine
Photographs courtesy of Mushka Weinbaum
Mushka Weinbaum has been around Chabad of Alabama for more than three decades. Her parents started the organization 34 years ago, and though she left Birmingham for a bit, she came back—with a husband and a baby—and now works there.
On Fridays, you can find Mushka at Chabad of Alabama, passing out orders of challah to customers—both Jewish and non—who have come to count on this weekly treat.
Challah is the traditional egg bread that is served on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, which starts at sunset Friday and goes through sunset on Saturday. “When we were kids, my parents would make challah out of our home kitchen and give it out as gifts as well as sell some,” says Mushka. “Each loaf of bread is filled with tradition and symbolism.”
Mushka explains that two loaves of challah are traditionally put on the Shabbat table to
symbolize the two portions of manna that God gave to the Children of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt. “On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it is customary to eat round challahs to symbolize the cyclical nature of the year. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make more than 600 challahs!” she says.
Mushka is referring to The Challah Shoppe, a part of Chabad of Alabama, where she helps to coordinate and bakes the challah each week. “I can’t tell you when it happened, but at a certain point, we saw that there was a need for challah on a bigger scale,” she explains. “We started off with 30 loaves, and every week we were making more and more. We decided to brand [the bread-making business] The Challah Shoppe, and with word of mouth, we were making more than 250 loaves weekly.”
Several years ago, The Challah Shoppe began to offer specialty flavors in addition to traditional challah. Each week is a different specialty flavor. “Some of our best sellers are chocolate, cinnamon, Funfetti, garlic-herb, and everything spice,” says Mushka. “While I prefer the savory flavors, our community loves the sweet ones!”
While the majority of The Challah Shoppe customers are Jewish, Mushka says they have a pretty big non-Jewish following, as well. “For us, the most special part about The Challah Shoppe is getting to see our community on a weekly basis and knowing that people are
celebrating Shabbat with challah.”
To order fresh challah from The Challah Shoppe at Chabad of Alabama, visit chabadofalabama.com, and click on “The Challah Shoppe.” Curbside pickup is available from noon until 3 p.m. every Friday. Prices start at $5 for traditional challah. Specialty flavors must be ordered, but one or two challahs can usually be picked up without an order. “We do run out sometimes, so if you want to make sure we have enough, it’s always a good idea to order,” says Mushka.
If you’re not eating challah as a part of Shabbat, it is a great base for bread pudding or French toast, or use it to make homemade croutons, grilled cheese, or other sandwiches.
Other items, such as Chanukah candles, oil cups, salami rolls, and more can also be ordered online. To find out the specialty challah of the week, you can subscribe to the email list on the order page.
Chabad of Alabama and The Challah Shoppe are located beside Overton Park at 3040 Overton Road in Mountain Brook [map].
For more information, visit chabadofalabama.com.