(JTA) — For millennia, Jews have eaten matzah. And for years, Jewish patrons of Trader Joe’s have been able to purchase matzah off the shelves of the tiki-themed grocery chain — which has gained its own quasi-religious following.
Now, for the first time ever, Trader Joe’s will be selling matzah under its own famous private label.
The question, even among the store’s diehard Jewish fans, is what makes Trader Joe’s-branded matzah different from all other matzah.
The grocery chain with more than 500 stores nationwide, and known for characteristically friendly, Hawaiian shirt-clad employees and a limited selection and high turnover of products, has gained a cult-like following in its 56 years of operation. An Instagram fan account boasts nearly 2 million followers; the internet is abound with memes about falling in love with Trader Joe’s cashiers; and dozens of Facebook groups with thousands of members each exist to cater toward the specific dietary needs of loyal shoppers.
Those loyalists include no small number of Jews who keep kosher. The store stocks a number of Jewish, Israeli and Middle Eastern foods — from an “everything but the bagel” spice mix to spicy zhoug sauce to kosher-certified turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, and frozen latkes. Trader Joe’s caused a small uproar in 2012 when it stopped stocking kosher pareve semi-sweet chocolate chips. After a campaign by Jewish customers, the chain brought the product back to its shelves in 2021.
But whether that loyalty will extend to the store’s matzah is unclear. Some shoppers said they were excited about the new offering, while others wondered whether it would be any different from the matzah Trader Joe’s has sold in previous years. Still others said that by putting its name on one of the most quintessential Jewish foods, Trader Joe’s “signals that Pesach products have gone mainstream,” in the words of Susan Robinson, a member of Kosher Trader Joe’s, a Facebook group with more than 63,000 members.
The decision also demonstrates that Trader Joe’s takes its kosher-observant customers seriously, said Rachel B. Gross, a professor at San Francisco State University who teaches a course on U.S. Jews and the history of food.
“My understanding is that they’ve never wanted to do everything,” Gross said. “But they have had a really strong kosher game because that worked really well with the way they approached the niche markets in general.”
For years, Trader Joe’s sold matzah made by a brand called Holyland, and it’s unclear whether the chain’s new boxes hold the same old product. The company — which is secretive about who produces its private-label foods — told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency only that the new private label matzah is made by “one of the largest and oldest matzo-making bakeries in Israel.”
Whether the Holyland once sold by Trader Joe’s is made by the same company as Holyland Shmura Matzo — a circular handmade variety — is similarly unclear. But there are hints, beyond the name, that they come from the same company, which is based in Israel. Both share the same distributor, and both include a logo on the front bearing the web address NaturallyBetterWithYouInMind.com, a site that boasts “high quality, all natural, kosher foods.”
A representative of the distributor of both Holyland products, a New Jersey company called Kayco, did not know whether the current Trader Joe’s product is the same as the Holyland matzah. The new Trader Joe’s matzah box says only that it is distributed and sold by Trader Joe’s, which is headquartered outside of Los Angeles.
That confusion has led to an ambivalent reaction among some members of Kosher Trader Joe’s. Multiple members of the group shared photos of the new boxes at their local stores, encouraging each other to buy the matzah in order to press the company to produce it again next year.
Some commented on the new box design, while others remarked on the price — $2.69 per box, a slight increase over the $2.49 Trader Joe’s charged for the Holyland boxes last year, according to an Instagram fan page. (Name-brand boxes of matzah at the same weight cost slightly more at other retailers, ranging from about $3.22 for a 16 ounce box of Yehuda Matzos to $4.49 for Manischewitz’s version of the unleavened bread.)
“Trader Joe’s has sold Holyland Matzah for at least a decade, if not longer,” wrote one member. “I’m surprised that it has taken them this long to put it under the Trader Joe’s private label.”
Others were just happy to have access to matzah at all. Another member recalled that supply chain delays and restrictions related to COVID-19 led to shortages of Passover products, and that in Manhattan’s East Village, where he lives, “TJ – and the Holyland Matzo – became a Pesach saver. That’s what the commotion is all about.”
(Members of the group who adhere to strict kosher laws may not have tried the new matzah yet due to a tradition of not eating matzah between Purim and Passover, although a few customers remarked that it feels thinner than Holyland matzah.)
In addition to matzah, Trader Joe’s will sell Teva Glatt kosher-for-Passover Angus beef brisket and a few kosher-for-Passover wines including Sara Bee Moscato and Baron Herzog chardonnay and cabernet. The company will publish a complete list of its kosher-for-Passover offerings closer to the holiday, which begins the night of April 5.
Gross said the conversation over Trader Joe’s matzah fits in with the way Americans celebrate Passover, which she said is intimately tied to brands. She cited the proliferation of well-known Passover products like the haggadah published by Maxwell House coffee, which was first printed more than 90 years ago, or Manischewitz’s many Passover foods. The way the holiday has been shaped by brands, she said, is “in some sense, a traditional American Jewish experience.”
“Jews have really learned over the last 110, 120 years how to trust brands, and trust brands around kashrut, especially around Passover,” Gross told JTA.
“We know that the people who keep kosher are such a small minority,” she added. “And we know that the number of people who look for heckshers are not primarily Jews, which makes me wonder how many non-Jews buy matzah, or [how many] they expect to buy matzah.”
But for at least one member of Kosher Trader Joe’s, brand loyalty was not enough to make the new matzahs stand out.
“Most articles written about this Matza as well as online comments make it out to be something earth-shattering and revolutionary, and fail to mention that Trader Joe’s has carried matza around this time, in every single store, for years and years under the Holyland Brand,” wrote Yoseph Goldstein. “Have folks easily forgotten this? Is it really the ‘coolness’ of the box?”
The post A fifth question this Passover: what makes Trader Joe’s matzah different from all other matzah? appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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