Raising my kids with Jewish tradition in their lives has always been a priority for me, but it’s something that I’ve had to teach myself. I wasn’t raised observing all of the Jewish holidays, just the major ones. But when I joined a conservative shul as an adult, I immediately felt a pull toward a lot of the traditions and I’ve embraced them…in my own way.
I wouldn’t call my family observant at all, and I often wish I could do more, but I do know that my kids know who they are, where they came from and that they will take what we do through their lives. When you aren’t raised with a lot of tradition and religion, it’s not easy to teach yourself but I look to my friends and shul for guidance on what I can bring into the home.
The reason I’m writing this now is that this week has been quite special in terms of bringing NEW traditions into our home. For one thing, my husband put up a Sukkah. It’s something I’ve been wanting for years. Without asking this year, I somehow found him banging nails and building one in our backyard last Sunday and by the end of the day, it was up. The kids helped every step of they way, and I think they’ve been to Home Depot three times now to get more wood and other pieces to make the structure Kosher. We’ve spent the last few days coming up with decorations – hanging pictures of fruit, streamers, and pictures. We even hang pumpkin lights and have Halloween candles and are calling it our “Halloween Sukkah” (you gotta love it). Last night we welcomed in the holiday with prayers and then my daughter did her homework (which is getting so hard!) under candlelight in the Sukkah. It feels like a new era in our home.
If that wasn’t enough, last night for the first time ever, I pulled out my cookbook and told my kids we were making challah. There were literally squeals of joy and my kids were jumping up and down. We had never made one before and it was SO easy. All you need is yeast, water, sugar, flour, salt, eggs and oil! Who knew it was so simple? We let the dough rise overnight and this morning…voila! It was ready to braid. They felt so accomplished and I have a feeling tonight’s Shabbos dinner in the Sukkah is going to be extra exciting.
Here’s the recipe for the challah* (if you want to know how to build the Sukkah, do a Google search for directions or call my husband!):
2 packets dry yeast
1-1/4 cups warm water
1 cup plus a pinch of sugar
7 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup oil
MAKES 2 CHALLAHS
1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar
2. Using an electric mixer or by hand, combine 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of the flour, salt, 3 eggs and oil. Then add the yeast mixture and gradually add the rest of the flour. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
3. Move the dough to a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes. Oil a large bowl, put the dough in the bowl and cover with a moistened cloth. Place the bowl in a warm place, and let it rise about one hour.
4. Punch down the dough and let it rise again until it’s tripled in bulk, about 1-3 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the dough on a floured surface and divide it in half (to make 2 challahs).
6. To braid, cut each half into 3 parts. Roll out each part to form a long rope. Braid the 3 ropes, and place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
7. Beat the remaining egg with 1/4 teaspoon of water. Brush the egg wash onto the challah. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
(*This recipe comes from GET COOKING! A JEWISH AMERICAN FAMILY COOKBOOK)