American Lulav Shortage Averted With Shipment of 200,000


lulavimThe email was received at approximately 8:00 p.m., Tuesday evening, and the subject line said “Lulavim Emergency.” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington director, read it with interest. He has been involved in issues relating to the entry of the arba minim for more than a decade. As he sat on the train returning from a day in New York he realized that immediate action was needed to address what seemed to be a critical situation.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudath Israel’s Executive Vice President, sent Cohen the email conveying the pleas of a prominent arba minim distributor, who said that Customs officials were holding a significant shipment of Egyptian lulavim at the airport -approximately 200,000 lulavim, an amount large enough to constitute “the majority of lulavim” necessary to meet the needs of American Jews. The shipment consisted of four parts, three of which had arrived. Customs said it could not proceed with processing the shipment until the fourth part arrived.

The arba minim distributor explained that, if the shipment would not be cleared and released as soon as possible, there was the real danger that there would not be enough time to fully distribute — in a reasonable time before yom tov — all the lulavim to their intended destinations around the country.

As the train sped along, Cohen contacted a high ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, with whom he has worked for several years on various issues, including problems in regard to arba minim. At 9:00, an hour later, Rabbi Zwiebel informed Cohen that this official had already intervened with Customs officials and informed the distributor of the good news that the shipment would be processed the next day. The agency, he explained, was not able to initiate its procedures at night.

It was welcome news and a helpful accommodation. But it did not really alleviate the distributors’ concerns.

Cohen again contacted the DHS official and explained that if the shipment would be treated “routinely,” it could take a lengthy amount of time and would probably not be able to be shipped for another two days (Thursday). At that point, we would be running into Erev Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur and Sunday, and for all practical purposes the shipment would not go out until the next Monday – a precarious situation with Succos commencing on that Wednesday evening. The Agudah representative emphasized the need to release the lulavim still that night and, if that was impossible, the agency official should exert all efforts to have the shipment available to be sent out by early the next morning. Bottom line: every hour counted.

The DHS official got back on the phone and the distributors stood prepared and ready.

At 11:30 – 3.5 hours later – the lulav distributor emailed Rabbi Cohen. He began, “Hodu l’Hashem – the lulavim were just released.”

{Noam Newscenter}


  1. The truth is these that these are Egyptian lulavim
    First the Arabs make a mint do we should drop isolating them plus these
    Are very hard to find mehudar or some cases kosher at all
    The less of these around the better it is for all
    There are plenty of deri and Spanish lulavim to go around