A proposed New York City edict that would severely limit coal and wood-burning ovens has matzah bakeries across the city worried. Some are warning that bakeries might move out of the city.
By Anash.org reporter
Matzah bakeries in New York City are expressing concern over a proposed city rule which would curtail the use of coal and wood-burning ovens, a necessity for matzah baking.
The NYC Department of Environmental Protection drafted new rules requiring traditional wood-burning and coal-burning ovens to install a filter to reduce emissions by up to 75 percent. The rule would mainly affect pizza shops across the city, but could have an even more damaging effect on the production of matzah.
In order to achieve the required 75% emissions reduction, bakeries would be forced to switch to other sources of fuel or to install pricy filtration systems.
The first option is a non-starter, according to those involved in the matzah business.
“This is the religious tradition for all these years. Gas stoves can’t be as hot as coal and wood. It’s also about the religion. This is how we bake for the past thousands of years and we don’t want to change anything,” Alter Eckstein, a manager of the Satmar Broadway Matzah Bakery, told the New York Post.
And the second option could raise the price of handmade shmurah matzah even higher, further straining pockets already stretched thin by inflation and rising costs of food.
The rise in price could also upset efforts to distribute shmurah matza before Pesach to as many Jews as possible. While much of that matza comes from Eretz Yisroel or Ukraine, the matza bakeries in New York City play a pivotal role in that mivtza as well.
According to Chabad.org, over 1 million pounds of shmurah matzah are distributed each year, in large thanks to the Rebbe’s mivtzah matza which began in 5714.
“The Rebbe’s insistence that shmurah matzah be made available around the country went beyond words. In one notable example, he arranged that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement’s central educational organization, Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, pay for Korf’s shmurah matzah advertisements in Chicago through the Chabad emissary there at the time, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht,” they wrote.
Soon after the proposed regulations were announced in New York, a firestorm was raised as both pizza lovers and Jewish leaders urged the City to back down.
“I love matzah. I am Jewish. Of course, we have to support all businesses that produce matzah. Why are we going after them? It’s completely opposite to what we should be doing,” said Brooklyn GOP Councilman Ari Kagan. “I am totally against it. It is wrong.”
Mayor Eric Adams also weighed in, urging a path of compromise. “We don’t want to hurt businesses in the city and we don’t want to hurt the environment. So, let’s see if we can find a way to get the resolutions we’re looking for,” he said last week.
But some matza bakeries aren’t taking any chances. One matzah bakery already spent $600,000 on filtering systems in anticipation of the new rules. Others are said to contemplate relocating out of the city, with the New York Post reporting that one rabbi warned that the bakeries could flee New York for hospitable places. In March 2021 a Shmurah matzah bakery opened in Fort Worth, Texas — the first such establishment in North America outside New York or Montreal.
As for Crown Heights, no word has been heard on their plans.
Anash.org reached out to a representative of the Crown Heights Matzah bakery regarding this issue and their plans for the future, and received no response as of the time of publication.
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