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       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays




The Passover Bread.


From the New-York Daily 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.

On the first evening of the feast the members of the family gather about the table, which is laid as elaborately as the householder's purse will allow, and then the story of the Passover is read by the head of the family and the origin of the feast is explained to the children, who take part in the quaint ceremony by responses and songs. No matter how poor the family may be, there is always a vacant chair at the table when this ceremony, known as the Seder, takes place, to typify hospitality. The Seder is the chief religious ceremony of the week, and is observed to some extent even among Reform Jews, who have modernized the ceremony, however, by reading the story in English instead of using the original Hebrew.

Making Passover Bread in an East Side Basement Bakery.



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."

There are several grades of matzohs on the market, ranging in price from 1 to 10 cents a pound, and these are delivered in bulk or packed in dry-goods boxes, in paper packages, or in fancy boxes.

"Of course," said one East Side baker, "our customers are for the most part Jews who buy the matzohs because they wish to keep the Passover, but we have many customers also who are not Jews, who prefer the unleavened bread to crackers, and our list of such customers is becoming larger every year."
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