Pastries for charity: Hillel gives back with baked goods

Tuesday, Jan. 30 the University of Rhode Island Hillel Center hosted their bi-weekly Sweet Tzedakah Treats event, baking delicious treats to donate to the McAuley House and Help the Homeless RI.

The McAuley House is a nonprofit based in Providence, providing food, shelter, clothing and health services to the people of Rhode Island. Help the Homeless RI is an organization of citizens that “collect and distribute items to help the homeless and provide meals in underserved areas,” according to their website.

“We have a relationship with this organization already,” Director of Jewish Life Michael Schreiber said. “Our executive director here, her family already does volunteer work for them, so we’re just joining in on this volunteer work that’s already happening.”

Keeping in tradition with many URI organizations, service is one of the main goals of the Hillel Center. The house has previously hosted a Pink Challah Bake Sale for breast cancer awareness in October 2023, and regularly hosts meals dedicated to the education of Jewish culture.

“It’s part of our goal and objective here at Hillel to do programs that better serve our community and give back,” Schreiber said.

Even the name “Sweet Tzedakah Treats” also has deep roots in the relationship between service and the Jewish culture.

“Tzedakah is a Hebrew word that literally translates to righteousness, but it’s used a lot as a stand-in for charity,” Schreiber said.

The Hillel Center is rooted in community as well as service. The center helps involved students “increase Jewish knowledge and literacy, hone leadership skills, engage in social justice and gain real-life job experience,” according to the URI Hillel Center website.

Students can come to the center to work internships, lead Shabbat services or fill community service hours.

This time the center’s members baked some white chocolate brownies. Having an industrial kosher kitchen, the Hillel Center was able to bring together students of all kinds. First-year student Maya Wolski is a regular at the Sweet Tzedakah Treats events, consistently dedicating her time to the cause.

“My favorite recipe we’ve made is the challah,” Wolski said. “It’s really good and fresh.”

Challah is regular fare at the Hillel Center, commonly served at their Shabbat Dinners and Challah Bake events, where students can come to educate themselves on the heritage.

“I was raised Jewish, so I knew all this stuff and was exposed to it my whole life, but I was never really connected to it,” Wolski said.

Now, Wolski is choosing the recipes for the event and taking on leadership roles.

“There’s a whole center of Jewish people,” Wolski said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet people who are my same religion and background.”

While providing resources for Jewish students is one of the Hillel Center’s main goals, any student is welcome.

“All of our programs are open to anyone. We’d love for anyone to come by,” Schreiber said.

The next Sweet Tzedakah Treats event will be held at the Hillel Center on Wednesday.