Connection Featured in the Jewish Ledger
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 5:33 PM EDT
Business sells award-winning rugelach
By Cindy Mindell
WESTPORT Jane Moritz doesn't believe in accidents. She and her
husband left Manhattan and their advertising business five years
ago, and Jane bought the Westport-based
Challah Connection, a small
local challah-subscription company. Moritz says the move was simply
a way to combine her love of being Jewish, her passion for baking
challah, and her marketing background into her own business.
But it was soon to become more. Moritz's Fortune-500 clients had
used “cross-selling” -- offering related products to
customers who had already purchased a product.
“So I thought: If someone's getting a challah, why wouldn't
they want babka or rugelach?” she says.
They did, so much so that Jane's rugelach eventually caught the
attention of David Rosengarten of The Food Network. Last year, the
taste-maven bestowed his coveted Best Mail-Order Holiday Dessert
honor on the traditional Jewish pastry he described as “complicated
and layered, but in a softer way, like a Greek galaktoboureko.”
Rosengarten's own translation: “I selected them because they
taste so damned good.”
In 2003, shortly after the Challah Connection went national online,
Florence Fabricant of the New York Times wrote about the budding
mail-order Jewish food emporium. For the next week, orders poured
in, but Moritz was unprepared for the many requests for gift baskets
and gift certificates.
And that's when she discovered the niche for high-quality
gourmet gift baskets.
“It's become a real Jewish gift business based on Jewish
traditions,” she says. “We're trying to enhance people's
lives and Jewish experience,” and she's surprised to find
that only about half of her customers are Jewish.
Second only to Holiday orders are those placed for shiva and
sympathy baskets. Many gifts are sent by non-Jewish customers.
“Non-Jews giving to Jews want to get it right,” she
says, which she finds very moving. She attributes the high volume
to an informative online article she wrote explaining shiva traditions,
picked up by the major search engines.
“I get a lot of touching, interesting stories from customers
about why they're sending gifts,” Moritz says.
“Through the business, I've learned so much about the Jewish
lifecycle, and I have a much better understanding of death,”
she says. “So I'm braver about talking with people and letting
them know I'm thinking about them. Now I know what to say.”
On her website, Moritz posts suggestions for gift-card text, and
believes that customers come to her because she helps and educates
“I hear from a lot of non-Jewish customers wanting to know
how Jews operate,” she says. Her website is packed with information
about Jewish traditions, from what to do at your first seder to
how to light Shabbat candles. There's also a collection of traditional,
old-world recipes, and Moritz wants to expand the section to reflect
foods and traditions of Jewish communities around the world.
A native of Stamford, CT Moritz grew up in a Conservative household
with an Ashkenazi father and a Sephardi mother, who is also a fabulous
cook. She graduated from Bi-Cultural Day School, and finds that,
thanks to the Challah Connection, she's more "Jewishly" involved now
than ever. The self-described “funky traditional Jewish family”
are members of Temple Shalom in Norwalk, and go all-out for Jewish
holidays and Shabbat dinner.
As the business grows, Moritz engages in more tikkun olam. She's
researching ways to make Challah Connection greener. She's baked
challah with her youngest son's elementary-school class, and will
bake with residents of a Stamford assisted-living facility. And
she plans to mentor other women who are starting businesses.
“The more I spend on this business, the more I want to do
good things,” she says.
To see the award-winning rugelach, pick up Jane's challah recipe,
or get ideas for creative Jewish celebrations, visit