Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



A Thousand Matzos A Minute

Barbara Bensoussan

The Manischewitz company, which we Americans all grew up associating with Yiddish-speaking bubbys and matzoh-ball soup, is now owned by a couple of guys from Casablanca who are more likely to be eating fava bean soup and matbuchah at their Yom Tov meals. But they are still king of the machine matzos, so some things never change.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

When my children were younger, they used to go on yearly pre-Pesach class trips to visit a matzoh bakery. It sounded like such fun that I wished I too could board those yellow school buses and join them, to go shuffling through rooms ringing with the clatter of wooden dowels, watching strong-armed matrons slap down the dough and roll it out. Then there’s the thrill of seeing the matzos emerge triumphantly on a paddle from the fiery furnace, charred and brittle, in a room stiflingly hot and redolent of baking dough.

Well, I finally got my tour.

We visited the Manischewitz plant in Newark, New Jersey, the largest and perhaps the oldest continuous manufacturer of machine matzoh in the world (the company reached its meah v’esrim birthday — 120 years — in 2008).

You might say the Manischewitz company owes some of its good health, despite its advanced age, to the industrial equivalent of receiving a brand-new mechanical heart: as of 2006, the company rebuilt its entire matzoh-making apparatus to create a super efficient and halachically sound matzoh-making environment worthy of the twenty-first century. The company claims that you could circle the globe twice with the amount of matzoh Manischewitz churns out every year, which is produced in a plant the size of four football fields.

Meir the photographer and I locate the factory in an industrial zone so close to the Newark airport that every passing plane seems to fly low enough for us to reach up and touch. The next thing we notice, getting out of the car and sniffing the air, is the heimische smell of … chicken soup! Turns out consommé production is in full force today, and its fragrance sure beats some of the other smells around that particular stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike.

We search for the entrance, but the entire administrative area has been gutted in preparation for a massive renovation, as the company consolidates its plant in Secaucus with the gargantuan Newark facility. A company rep comes running out to rescue us from our confusion, and brings us to a makeshift temporary office inside the main hangar. There we’re introduced to Mr. Alain Bankier, company president, who shares this title with his partner Mr. Paul Bensabat.

Bankier and Bensabat are both nattily dressed, convivial men of Moroccan Jewish origin who are pleasantly surprised to find themselves interviewed by a lady with a Moroccan last name. (How do you say landsman in Maghrebit?) I find this a delightful piece of celestial irony: the Manischewitz company, which we Americans all grew up associating with Yiddish-speaking bubbys and matzoh-ball soup, is now owned by a couple of guys from Casablanca who are more likely to be eating fava bean soup and matbuchah at their Shabbos (uh, Shabbat) and Yom Tov meals.

In fact, Mr. Bankier proudly tells us, the Sephardic influence has indeed crept into the product line. He seizes a jar of one of his newest kosher-for-Passover offerings and displays it with a flourish: Moroccan fish balls in tomato sauce — a standard in my own home! That, together with Pesachdig candied orange rind and chocolate-dipped biscotti, might induce even my most hard-core Sephardic friends to throw some of these items into their grocery carts, despite the vus-vus name and old-timey logo on the packaging.

However tempting these goodies and the rest of the broad, colorful mix of Pesach products that have been hastily assembled into a table display for us, we’re really here to see the Main Event: the ultramodern, state-of-the-art matzoh production process, researched and designed by the plant’s industrial mavens in conjunction with the rabbinic expertise of Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, the company’s rav hamachshir (via the OU) for the past sixteen years. Rabbi Horowitz supervises ten mashgichim for matzoh alone, in addition to all the company’s other products, Pesach and non-Pesach alike.

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"