Cracking effort! UK matzah maker works round the clock to bake a million for Ukraine

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Cracking effort! UK matzah maker works round the clock to bake a million for Ukraine

Leeds-based Rakusen’s dedicated its entire factory to baking the unleavened bread in time for Pesach.

Rabbi Jeremy Conway, director of KLBD (left) with Rabbi Moshe Royde, Rakusen's kashrut director.
Rabbi Jeremy Conway, director of KLBD (left) with Rabbi Moshe Royde, Rakusen's kashrut director.

A British matzah maker dedicated their entire factory to producing one million matzahs for Ukraine’s Jewish community this week, after receiving an urgent request from America’s Orthodox Union (OU).

Workers at Leeds-based Rakusen’s baked through the night to ensure the unleavened bread would be ready to be sent to the war-ravaged country in time for Pesach.

According to the OU, Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has led to severe shortages of matzah this Pesach, both for Jews in the country and refugees who have fled.

This led the OU to get in touch with KLBD, the kashrut division of the London Beth Din, to see if they would be able to work with Rakusen’s to produce an extra run of kosher for pesach matzah this year.

Some 70,000 boxes have been ordered, equating to nearly a million matzot. Rakusen’s expects to complete the special production run by Friday and the packages will be sent to Hungary where they will be transferred to Ukraine.

KLBD’s Rabbi Moshe Royde said: “Rakusen’s finished their main kosher l’Pesach matzah run two weeks ago, but given the huge suffering in Ukraine we knew we had to help out to ensure Jewish refugees and those still in Ukraine have matzah for Pesach.

“Despite the huge time pressure we have managed to achieve a very high standard of kosher l’Pesach production and, baruch Hashem, were able to recruit enough mashgichim (kashrut supervisors) to help us oversee the baking.

“We have also been able to label each box manually so it’s clear the matzah is for Jewish refugees. Getting the matzot to Ukraine quickly via Budapest has also proven challenging because owing to Brexit everything now takes longer but thanks to OU, VH, and Rakusen’s teams we have managed to make all the necessary arrangements.”

Rakusen’s staff make matzahs for Ukraine’s Jewish community in March 2022

The Orthodox Union (OU), in coordination with the Vaad Hatzalah (VH), has been supporting communities in Ukraine and the surrounding countries since the start of the war at the end of February.

Rakusen’s staff  had to buy in huge quantities of extra flour, packaging for the boxes and arrange extra staffing. The cost is being covered by the OU and VH.

Simon Taylor, the OU’s National Director, Community Projects and Partnerships, explained: “The OU and VH have a call centre in Vienna, Austria, where we are regular contact with Jewish communities in Ukraine and centres in eastern Europe.

“Based on the needs they were telling us, we knew we had to procure twenty tons of matzah for Pesach.

“We picked up the phone to KLBD in London to ask if they could help us with this project and Rakusen’s stepped up to the challenge and couldn’t have been more helpful – they closed down their factory in order to make this happen. Otherwise, I simply don’t know if we would have been able to do this time.”

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