Jews in the former Soviet Union are the world’s most voracious matzah-eaters, consuming nearly three times as much as the average Israeli soldier.
Topping the tables are Azerbaijan’s 8,000 Jews, who between them can get through 10 tonnes of the unleavened bread that Jews eat at Pesach, averaging 2.7 pounds per person.
Russia’s 155,000 Jews are not far behind, consuming 2.4 pounds each, while Ukraine’s comes in slightly less.
“There’s a special emotional attachment to matzah here that you don’t find elsewhere because for decades under the communist years, Passover was the safest way to stay connected to Judaism,” Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar told JTA.
“Pound for pound, Russian-speaking Jews buy much more matzah than what we know in other communities. Many keep eating matzah long after Passover.”
While the UK and US have different suppliers, things are “more centralised” in the former Soviet countries, said one retailer.
Zamir Isayev, rabbi of the Georgian Jewish community of the Azeri capital of Baku, said it was also a Covid-secure pastime.
Lazar said: “Passover is a holiday that is celebrated inside the family and requires no special objects except the matzah, which is just a cracker, so it is relatively safe to practise.”
The festival’s message of deliverance from slavery also resonated strongly with the oppressed Jews of the former Soviet Union.
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