Old World Flavor

A Shmura Matzo Factory

By Rebecca Dube

Published March 24, 2009, issue of April 03, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Walk through the unmarked black doors of a nondescript brick building in Brooklyn, and you stumble onto a time machine.

Here, at one of the half-dozen or so shmura matzo factories remaining in New York, a bustling team of bakers keeps alive the art of making matzo the old-fashioned way.

“This is the way it was done when they first made the matzo, going back 3,000 years, maybe more,” said Yitzchok Tenenbaum, manager of Crown Heights’ D & T Shmura Bakery, as he watches crisp, smoking rounds of matzo being pulled from the roaring coal- and wood-fired oven. “It’s good stuff — just flour and water, no preservatives.”

Like the original matzo the Jews made as they fled Egypt, everything at a shmura matzo bakery is done by hand — and quickly. Shmura means “watched” or “guarded,” and indeed, every step is carefully supervised.

The process starts when flour and water — each stored in separate booths to prevent accidental mixing — are kneaded together. A runner then carries the sticky dough to a long, narrow table that is covered in brown butcher paper. About two dozen people briskly roll egg-sized lumps into dinner-plate-sized rounds. Above the roar of the fans and the clank of their wooden rolling pins, the women and a few of the men chat and laugh. The scene might come straight from a drawing of the ancient Israelites, minus the iPod cords dangling from some of the young men’s ears.

The rollers drape their finished products over wooden pins and send them to a smaller table, where the rounds are punched through with tiny holes.

From there, five or six matzot are hung over a long wooden rod and pushed over to the baker. With practiced movements, he slides them into the 1,000-degree oven, flipping them into place. Instantly, the thin dough begins to brown and crackle. After about a minute, the baker reaches into the oven again and pulls out the finished matzot.

Unlike factory-made matzo, shmura matzo is rough around the edges, usually blackened in places. That’s all part of the charm.

“They have a real, honest-to-goodness, handmade matzo,” said Scott Goldshine, general manager and matzo buyer at Zabar’s, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. At Zabar’s shmura matzo at $20 to $25 a pound finds a market outside its primarily Hasidic customer base. “It’s not even, it’s burned. That really adds a touch of authenticity to the Seder, which means a lot to people.”

Photos by Ari Jankelowitz/Foto 22

  • Image 1
  • Image 2
  • Image 3
  • Image 4
  • Image 5


Rebecca Dube is a staff reporter at the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.