November 7, 2023
Reform Jewish publisher offers a fun, creative, and engaging look at Jewish tradition’s most celebrated bread, presented alongside insightful Torah commentary.
New York, NY: CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is pleased to announce the publication of Loaves of Torah: Exploring the Jewish Year through Challah by Rabbi Vanessa M. Harper, a sumptuously illustrated journey through Jewish tradition through the art of challah. The volume includes a foreword by Rabbi Michael Marmur, PhD, Associate Professor of Jewish Theology at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.
Braided and spiral loaves of challah have long been a delicious centerpiece of the Jewish table, but with a few extra twists, the beloved Shabbat bread can become a work of art that teaches Torah. Loaves of Torah emerged from Rabbi Harper’s hit Instagram education project—@lechlechallah—where she first began to use challah as an artistic medium for interpreting and teaching Torah. Loaves of Torah is a natural extension of this project, offering a look at interpretive challot for each weekly Torah portion and Jewish holiday, this time with extended commentary, in-depth questions for reflection and discussion, and beautiful kavanot.
Loaves of Torah includes gorgeous color photographs, blessings, recipes, and tips for baking your own creative challot. Rabbi Harper’s work takes on unique and sometimes unexpected shapes, delighting readers with loaves inspired by Joseph’s colorful tunic, a flock of birds, a bundle of wheat, a shofar, and many other meaningful symbols. Rabbi Harper’s instructions are never prescriptive; she encourages readers to carefully contemplate what meanings they personally derive from the Torah to use as inspiration for their own challah designs. A fresh, contemporary commentary on our holiest texts and holidays, Loaves of Torah will inspire you to think outside the braid and take Torah into your own hands.
Loaves of Torah reflects Rabbi Vanessa Harper’s passion for shaping creative, joyful, and meaningful Jewish learning and living experiences for people of all ages. She is Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Reform Rabbi-in-Residence at Gann Academy. Ordained in 2021 by the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Harper was recognized as a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar, a UJA-Federation Graduate Scholar, a Be Wise Jewish Entrepreneurial Fellow, and one of the New York Jewish Week‘s “36 Under 36.” She began the @lechlechallah project in 2017, which evolved into kinetic midrash classes that she taught all over the country, and then into this book.
Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, PhD, Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Provost of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and co-editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, said, “With its in-depth introduction to the history and rituals of challah, gorgeous photos of exquisitely made challot, and fascinating commentary, this insightful and inspiring book will be a valuable resource for anyone who loves to study Torah, teach, bake, and/or connect to Jewish time and texts in creative and meaningful ways. Loaves of Torah will whet both your appetite and imagination!”
“Jewish learning that stays with us is deeply experiential—it can enter us through our sense of taste or the choreography of braiding, as much as the study of ancient wisdom or deep discussions with friends,” said Aliza Kline, President and CEO of OneTable Shabbat. “Rabbi Vanessa Harper’s book offers all of these entry points and more, providing a weekly inspiration for the senses and intellect for anyone who joins her on this year-round journey.”
Leah Koenig, author of The Jewish Cookbook, said, “Loaves of Torah gives us the gift of a thoughtful, meaning-filled look into Jewish tradition’s most celebrated bread. Whether you are a longtime challah baker or challah curious, you will find so much richness in these pages.”