The History of Manischewitz Passover Matzos
A Box of Matzos from Manischewitz
Spring means Passover
Aaah…more daylight and hints of warmer weather tempt us to throw open a few windows and get some REAL house cleaning done. “Spring cleaning” is a ritual for many of us, and if you are Jewish it figures into the family home observance of Passover.
The Christian religion also recognizes the story of Passover in the book of Exodus in the Bible. In addition, many feel that the Last Supper of Jesus Christ was, in fact, a Passover ritual meal.
A Matzo is a Cracker
Basically, it is a cracker. It is flat, crisp, and made from grain flour. Now, it is a BIG cracker – often the size of a salad plate or larger, but it still remains a wheat-flour-plus- water cracker.
A Family History
Hear the story from a great-granddaughter.
Why Jews Eat these Matzo Crackers for Passover
Part of how Jews observe this holy week is by remembering the story of the Exodus and by eating foods which symbolize the events in the saga. In this story, God told the Jewish leader, Moses, to have all the enslaved Jews bake bread without leavening ingredients. This was to provide a “fast food” for the journey to escape from Egypt and slavery. Well, when you make bread without yeast, baking powder, or any other fluff-it-up chemical, you are going to wind up with a cracker.
So, What’s So Great About the Manischewitz Baking Company?
Four things, at least, are great about what the Manischewitz bakery did.
First, it was originated by an American Rabbi to make KOSHER matzos. Kosher is good because it gives Jews options. Some groups of Jews follow rigorous religious rules for eating and the expression for these families is that “they keep kosher.” The Jews who do not keep kosher are able to eat (from a religious point of view) kosher foods. Consumption of kosher-compliant food is not sacrilegious for non-kosher Jews.
Second, the bakery revolutionized matzo-making because it departed from the tradition of hand-making crackers and utilized MACHINES. This was a BIG deal. B-I-G! The Jewish religious leaders in charge of inspecting food practices to see if they conformed to all the rules of Kosher-ness, were very wary of this new-fangled method. Happily, Rabbi Manischewitz’s deep regard for the kosher rules and his explanation of how these matzos complied convinced the inspectors that all was well.
Third, Manischewitz matzos are SQUARE. This was another BIG deal. Perhaps you recall the strange and novel practice by some farmers who grew rectangular watermelons. The impact of square-shaped matzos was equally foreign. Before Rabbi M. answered the need to bake matzos for his family, friends, and other devout Jews of his city, matzos had been made by hand, the dough being rolled out (the way you might roll out cookie dough) and trimmed into large flatbread circle shapes. When he decided to have his machines made square matzos, again, the committee on kosherness needed to think through whether this violated the rules. It was decided that square is fair.
Fourth, Manischewitz is great because it is the first bakery to ship matzos throughout the world. Matzo making went from home- and hand-made, to an international food business. Needless to note, this reach meant that the matzos needed to feature uniform texture, taste, and feel.
More Facts about Manischewitz
Manischewitz is the United States’ largest manufacturer of kosher food and it is the number one supplier of matzo in the world.
Look for the brand names Manischewitz, Horowitz Margareten, Goodman's and Season which are all Manischewitz brand names used on its food products.
The B. Manischewitz Company, LLC started in 1888 in Cincinnati, Ohio, became a public corporation in 1923, and remained under family control until 1990.
Maybe a Matzo is More than a Cracker
The next time you sit down to a Passover celebration or see the rows of matzo boxes at the grocery, you might want to recall all the innovations of this unleavened bread which we now take for granted.
Photo and text copyright 2013 Maren E. Morgan.