Why Did the Chicken Come to Tikvat Israel?

Written by Luisa Moss on . Posted in Features

“Why did the chicken come to Tikvat Israel?” sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but on Feb. 24, Harriet the Hen was a special guest at a Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville, Maryland. Harriet’s visit was part of a program titled “Ha-motzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz – Who Brings Forth Bread from the Earth” for the synagogue’s Atid Learning Center's religious school families. Overseen by Jewish educator Luisa Moss and facilitated by local JOFEE fellow Amanda Herring, students learned how to make challah, explored the science of yeast, mastered challah braiding technique, discovered how we get flour from grain with mortar and pestle, and were taught and partook in the mitzvah of “hafrashat challah,” the separation of challah.


Harriet, a laying hen of Earle Scott Stibitz of Kensington, Maryland, joined the program to illustrate that eggs are an integral part of challah making. Students also compared Harriet’s blue-green egg shells to the white shells of the store-bought variety, as well as the yolks, which were much larger than the store-purchased eggs.

Parents participated in a special text study with Herring, exploring Shabbat and the opportunity it gives for rest and rejuvenation.

Ultimately, the families came away from the event with their own loaf of challah; but more importantly, they learned about the partners that all work together to create the food we eat and gained a deeper sense of gratitude, one of the special opportunities that Shabbat allows us each week.

This program was funded by a Quick Turn Around Grant through the Initiative in Congregational Education (ICE), a project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

By Luisa Moss


Luisa Moss is the youth and education director at Tikvat Israel Congregation in Rockville, Maryland.