The Museum of
Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays
The Passover Bread.
HOW THE JEWS KEEP THEIR ANCIENT FEAST BY EATING "MATZOS."
Tribune, April 20, 1902.
The Jewish Passover will begin tomorrow, and for one week from the date the people who adhere to the ancient customs of the Jews will eat no leavened bread and will abstain from many articles of food which at other times of the year are looked upon as necessary. Among the Reform Jews, the season is of importance only in so far as they have religious services at their houses of worship on the first and last days of the week and have the unleavened bread on their table at mealtimes, more as a reminder of the ancient custom than as a part of the meal.
But among the
Orthodox Jews great preparations are made for the proper
celebration of the feast. The habitations, no matter whether
they are large or small, a dark apartment in a double-decker
tenement house or a pretentious private house, are thoroughly
cleansed, and every kitchen utensil which is used in the rest of
the year is put away to make room for the Pesach kitchenware. An
Orthodox Jewish household must be extremely poor where there are
not special kitchen utensils and tableware for the Passover.
The amount of
unleavened bread consumed in the course of the week following
the Seder may be estimated from the fact that about thirty
thousand barrels of flour are used to furnish the supply for
this city. Several bakeries make the unleavened bread, called
matzoh, all the year. Some of the product is sold out of season,
but the greater part is delivered within a few weeks of the
Passover. Besides the large concerns, there are many small
baking establishments on the East Side where work is carried on
for two or three months in anticipation of the Passover rush.
The product of the small East Side concerns goes for the most
part to the ultra-Orthodox Jews for whom the regular factory
made matzohs are too modern. This bread, which resembles large
crackers, is made entirely from flour and water. In the large
concerns the mass is mixed and kneaded by machinery, but in the
smaller establishments this work is done by hand. The dough is
passed between metal rollers and then cut into square or round
pieces. A venerable man who stood watching the men at work in
one of the basement bakeries in Clinton Street explained why
only square matzohs were made there. He said: "According to the
Mosaic law the matzohs must be in the oven within eighteen
minutes after the dough is mixed. This can be done very easily
when all the material is cut into squares. But when you have to
gather up the pieces that fall between the disks, roll them out
and cut them up, more time is consumed and the mass is liable to
leaven. That's the reason we have our Passover bread square."
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