Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe

How Much Is Too Much? The Crippling Cost Of Shmura Matza

According to, more than 1 million pounds of shmurah matzo, or handmade matzo, will be created and sold this year. In fact, when Barack Obama hosted the first White House seder in 2009, shmurah matzo was present. Demand for this tasteless, complicated-to-digest artisanal cracker continues to rise.

This matzo is considered extra-special (and a must for the stringently religious) because its ingredients have been carefully guarded against leavening. Shmura matzo is scrutinized from before the time the wheat is even harvested. Translated from Hebrew, ‘shmura’ means guarded.

But you pay a premium for all that scrutiny and authenticity.

Shmura matzo can cost anywhere from $20 to $60 a pound. Shmura matzo baked the day before Passover is considered especially blessed, and Jews will pay upwards of $30 to get it. On Amazon, it’s $26.95 a pound. At it’s $24.00 a pound. On eBay a pound is a whopping $37.98. From Lakewood, we got shmura matzo retailing at $42.95. At Yiddish Farm we’re talking $50 a pound.

Not bad for a food item that tastes a whole lot like nothing.

18 minutes is everything when it comes to shmura matzo: That’s the time bakers have to combine the flour with water to create and cook matzo. After those eighteen minutes, it is considered leavened bread, or chametz. Using water drawn from a well and mixing it with dough, the clock starts ticking as bakers must roll out their potions into circles, perforate them with tiny incisions and throw them into an old-fashioned coal oven. Then comes the inspection. Burnt or broken pieces are discarded and remaining matzos are boxed. Everyone working on the matzo is supposed to be religiously observant. It’s a dangerous process, where mistakes can easily be made, and therefore it costs more, matzo manufacturers insist. Or so the logic goes.

But is it price gouging to charge a premium for a relatively rare food item that the community has a monopoly on, which cannot be bought anywhere else? Are the bakeries taking advantage of a vulnerable class of people? Not every Jew can afford the exorbitant prices of this holiday must. Who will speak for them?

The Jewish community is known for taking care of its own, with Chabad houses supplying matzo to those who need it and funds being raised to purchase shmura matzo for families in need.. But why should we have to fund-raise just to provide matzo, a holiday staple, to those in need? Shouldn’t we look towards the people setting the prices, rather than taking our cues from the prices that are set?

“It creates a pressure,” said a mother of four, who preferred to go unnamed. “I worry we’ll have to choose between wine and matzo this year.” The Internet complained. Jews called it highway robbery.

Is it worth reevaluating the pricing of this bread, crafted from bespoke grain, which no one bothers to taste when it isn’t Passover?

Shira Feder is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected]


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.