Kvias Mezuzah Celebrated at New Manischewitz Plant in Newark


manischewitzBy Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

When Rabbi Dov Ber Manischewitz started a matzo bakery in Cincinnati in 1888, no one would have believed that the little business would turn into what it did.

After all, here was a bearded rabbi from Lithuania in 19th century mid -America – totally out of place in that environment – struggling to re-establish the traditions of his people, traditions that some thought were best left in the old country.

And the old country? What a mess. Almost two thousand years after they were exiled from the Holy Land, Jews were spread the world over, hassled, harassed and tortured, with seemingly no hope of ever doing anything together again.

I thought of this the other day when speaking to Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yona Metzger. He had come to the opening of the new manufacturing plant and corporate offices of The Manischewitz Company in Newark in order to put up the mezuzos and bless the endeavor.

What a confluence of divergent geographic backgrounds and Jewish cultures!

Here was an Israeli born scholar, rising to the position of Chief Rabbi of his country, speaking at a food manufacturing business started by a Lithuanian Ashkenazic Jew, and now run by Sephardic Jews from Morocco and France. From Vilna to Casablanca to Jerusalem! From gefilte fish to fish “meatballs,” Jews come together from all over the world to continue their kosher tradition as one.

Instead of failing as many believed he would, Rabbi Manischewitz succeeded against all odds, and created what has developed today into a great producer of kosher foods for Passover and the year round. Food that is enjoyed in well over twenty six countries the world over.

The Mayor of Newark, Hon. Cory A. Booker, eloquently opened his remarks by commenting on the importance of Manischewitz to him personally as well as to the entire City of Newark. Mayor Booker recalled how once, while visiting a prison, a request was made for Hallal or Kosher food, and thanks to Manischewitz the need was taken care of.

Rabbi Metzger, in his blessings to the company, recounted the Biblical Story of Moses building the Tabernacle, the Mishkan. Moses encountered difficulty in constructing the Menorah, and it was only through Divine intervention that the Menorah was completed. Rabbi Metzger quoted the MAHARAL, Rabbi Yehuda Lowe, the great 16th century Torah Giant, who stated that, of course Moses knew how to build the Menorah. The issue was that the menorah was flanked with three lights on the left and three lights on the right and with one central light in the middle. The trick was how to get the lights, which represent a diversity of different people and ideas, to act in harmony. So Moses turned to the Almighty, and the Almighty demonstrated and taught Moses how it is possible for people with different ideas to get a long in harmony, dignity and respect. So to, Chief Rabbi Metzger explained, is Manischewitz, demonstrating to American Jewry how, as a kosher food manufacturer, it brings peace and love to our tables, by providing different types of foods, thus making the Seder, the Sabbath and the Holidays so much more enjoyable.

Paul Bensabat, one of the co-CEO’s of Manischewitz, explained that he is of Moroccan Sephardic ancestry, and how, under his leadership, Manischewitz has expanded the company’s kosher food line to include Sephardic dishes such as Moroccan Gefilte Fish, thus furthering the goal of Manischewitz as the global unifier of the kosher consumer, catering to the taste and needs of all Jews.

Alain Baniker, the other co-CEO of Manischewitz, explained that the venture into Sephardic foods is a testament to Manischewitz’s commitment to further expand and make ready available kosher foods from all parts of the world, thus giving the kosher consumer the option of trying new foods that they would not have ordinarily enjoyed.

Finally, I was privileged to take a tour of the Manischewitz factory and to see first hand how the vision of Rabbi Dov Ber Manischewitz’s dream of spreading kosher food in America has become a reality. I wonder how Rabbi Manischewitz would have reacted to Chief Rabbi Metzger’s measuring the twenty-five foot matzo? I am sure he would smile and say Gevaldig! Job well done.

Manischewitz has grown not only as a kosher food provider, but as a symbol of Jewish pride and unity. So the next time you purchase a Manischewitz product in your grocery, besides enjoying a product certified kosher by, among others, the Orthodox Union, the great leader of worldwide kashrus, you are also supporting a giant that has made it fashionable to be a kosher consumer in America.

Manischewitz is not just matzo, it is about almost everything fit to be found on the festive kosher table.

{NY Daily News/Matzav.com Newscenter}