I have a confession to make.

It may bring my Jewish identity into question and jeopardize my rabbinic ordination, but I feel it has to be said.

I don’t like raisin challah.

And I need your help lobbying for an alternative.

Yes, I am talking about the round, sweet challahs studded with sticky raisins that are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah, before Yom Kippur, and on Sukkot and Simchat Torah to symbolize our wish for a sweet year. I like challah but I just don’t like raisins. I believe the two should stay far away from each other. I know, blasphemous!

My mother used to bake raisin challah. When I was a kid, I used to pick out the raisins and eat the challah. My wife bakes them, too. And I still pick out the raisins.

But hear me out!

The High Holiday season, starting with Rosh Hashanah on Friday evening, marks 5,781 years since Adam and Eve were created. It’s the day they recognized Almighty G-d as the creator of the universe and its Sovereign Ruler. It’s the Jewish New Year, and we celebrate creation of the universe and deeply connect with our beloved Creator. Then comes Yom Kippur on Sept. 27-28 when we embrace our soul and forgiveness. On Sukkot and Simchat Torah on Oct. 2-11, we joyfully celebrate G-d’s protection even in challenging times. (Please visit santafejcc.com/hholidays for a full schedule of hybrid services.)

As Jews, we always mark special days with special foods. The High Holidays are no different. There’s the apple dipped in honey, pomegranates, kreplach, sweet honey cake, tzimmes and gefilte fish. And then there’s the round challah with raisins, symbolizing the never-ending cycle of time and the continuous cycle of life, and the “crown” of our soul.

Now I am all for tradition, but what if we replaced the raisins with chocolate chips? I can’t find anywhere in our holy Torah where that isn’t allowed. In fact, my mother invented the chocolate chip challah after she saw me picking out the raisins, and she hasn’t gone back since.

Since COVID-19 hit, we’ve been delivering holiday and Shabbat care packages with Matzah and (braided) challah to dozens of people every week in lieu of in-person community dinners. Over the 24 days of the High Holidays, we’ll be distributing more care packages, including some 700 (round) challahs. I am lobbying the cooking committee to switch out the raisins for chocolate chips, and I need your help.

What do you think, should we use traditional raisins or modern chocolate chips?

(No. We’ve tried doing half and half, but that doesn’t work because it’s hard to tell apart a raisin and a chocolate chip.) Please vote at santafejcc.com/vote and help us decide.

May we all experience a truly good and sweet year. Shana Tova Umetukah!

P.S.: If you see a pile of doughy raisins outside the Santa Fe Jewish Center on Manhattan Avenue — where we are having in-person, indoor and outdoor services Sept. 18-20 and throughout the High Holiday season — you’ll know I lost the vote.

Rabbi Berel Levertov is spiritual leader at the Santa Fe Jewish Center-Chabad.

(1) comment

Nyira Gitana

no no no ... raisins.

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