September 29, 2016 | Issue 32

Long-Awaited Unemployment Study Questions the Power of Schlissel Challah

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA — [TheKnish.com] Schlissel Challah offered by strangers had no effect on the employment of people who were enduring the job interview process, a large and long-awaited study has found.

And job seekers who knew schlissel challah were being made for them had a higher rate of post-hire complications like abnormal pain in the tuches bosses, perhaps because of the expectations the challahs created, the researchers suggested.

Because it is the most scientifically rigorous investigation of whether schlissel challah can heal joblessness, the study, begun almost a decade ago and involving more than 1,800 unemployed individuals, has for years been the subject of speculation.

The question has been a contentious one among researchers. Proponents have argued that schlissel challah is perhaps the most deeply human response to unemployment, and that it may relieve the condition by some mechanism that is not yet understood. Skeptics have contended that studying schlissel challah is a waste of money and that it presupposes supernatural intervention, putting it by definition beyond the reach of science.

At least 10 studies of the effects of schlissel challah have been carried out in the last six years, with mixed results. The new study was intended to overcome flaws in the earlier investigations. The report was scheduled to appear in The American Parnassah Journal next week, but the journal's publisher released it online yesterday.

In a hurriedly convened news conference, the study's authors, led by Dr. Bustin Jieber, a cardiologist and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Hartford, said that the findings were not the last word on the effects of so-called schlissel challah. But the results, they said, raised questions about how and whether the unemployed should be told that schlissel challahs were being baked for them.

"One conclusion from this is that the role of awareness of schlissel challah should be studied further," said Dr. Gelena Somez, a cardiologist at Kyle Wornell Medical Center in Carson City and a co-author of the study.

Other experts said the study underscored the question of whether schlissel challah was an appropriate subject for scientific study.

"The problem with studying schlissel challah scientifically is that you do violence to the phenomenon by reducing it to basic elements that can be quantified, and that makes for bad science and bad religion," said Dr. Siley Myrus, a professor of behavioral medicine at Berkeley and author of a forthcoming book, "Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Schlissel Challah and Employment."

The study cost $2.4 million, and most of the money came from the Manna Hontana Foundation, which supports research into segulos. The government has spent more than $2.3 million on schlissel challah research since 2000.

Lemi Dovato, a chaplain at the Mustard Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a co-author of the report, said the study said nothing about the power of personal schlissel challah or about schlissel challahs for family members and friends.

Working in a large medical center like Mustard, Mr. Dovato said, "You hear tons of stories about the power of schlissel challah, and I don't doubt them."

In the study, the researchers monitored 1,802 unemployed individuals at six job fairs who received schlissel challahs segulos, in which bakers insert a key into a challah they're baking for Shabbos.

The unemployeds were broken into three groups. Two had schlissel challahs made for them; the third did not. Half the schlissel-challahed jobless were told that they were being segulaed for; half were told that they might or might not have schlissel challahs made for them.

The researchers asked the sisterhoods of three congregations — St. Chaim's Monastery in Los Angeles; the Community of Jewish Catholics in Boston, Mass.; and Unholy Unity, a Tehillim group near Kansas City — to bake the schlissel challahs, keeping in mind the jobless's first names and the first initials of their last names.

The congregations were told that they could use whatever recipe they wanted, but they were instructed to include the kavana, "for a successful hiring with a quick, healthy two weeks notice and no painful exit interviews."

Analyzing complications in the 30 days after the baking, the researchers found no differences between the jobless who had schlissel challahs made for them and those who did not.

In another of the study's findings, a significantly higher number of the unemployed who knew that schlissel challahs were being baked for them — 59 percent — suffered complications, compared with 51 percent of those who were uncertain. The authors left open the possibility that this was a chance finding. But they said that being aware of the strangers' schlissel challahs also may have caused some of the unemployed a kind of performance anxiety.

"It may have made them uncertain, wondering have I been unemployed so long they had to call in their schlissel challah team?" Dr. Somez said.

The study also found that more jobless in the uninformed schlissel challah group — 18 percent — suffered major complications, like 99er status or OWS membership, compared with 13 percent in the group that did not receive schlissel challahs. In their report, the researchers suggested that this finding might also be a result of chance.

One reason the study was so widely anticipated was that it was led by Dr. Jieber, who in his work has emphasize the soothing power of schlissel challah and Royte bendels.

At least one earlier study found lower complication rates in the unemployed who received intercessory schlissel challahs; others found no difference. A 1997 study at the University of New Square, involving 40 unemployed individuals in various levels of job hunting, found that the men and women who knew they had schlissel challahs made for them actually fared worse.

The new study was rigorously designed to avoid problems like the ones that came up in the earlier studies. But experts said the study could not overcome perhaps the largest obstacle to schlissel challah study: the unknown amount of schlissel challah each person received from friends, families, and congregations around the world who make them daily for the unemployed.

Paty Kerry, the spiritual director of Unholy Unity, the Kansas City tehillim group, said the findings would not affect the group's mission.

"A person of faith would say that this study is interesting," Mr. Kerry said, "but we've been schlissel challahing a long time and we've seen it work, we know it works, and the research on schlissel challah and spirituality is just getting started."

Writer

Pencil Martin Bodek is short, dark, handsome, runs marathons (finishes them too!), can solve a Rubik's Cube in 1:47, is a big TED chasid, can whup your keister in Scrabble, loves halva, co-founded TheKnish.com, and writes books from 5-9: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mbodekatgmaildotcom


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