Going soft on matzah
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Going soft on matzah

Bread of affection: Rabbi Barry Dolinger and Naomi Baine.
Bread of affection: Rabbi Barry Dolinger and Naomi Baine.

Can it still be the Bread of Affliction if it’s not bone dry, tasteless and impossible to swallow?

The great-great-great-granddaughter of the man who first began producing the flat, square matzah slice on the Lower East Side is testing that culinary (and halachic) proposition.

Naomi Baine, a speech-language pathologist in Providence, R.I., and her husband, Barry Dolinger, a pulpit rabbi there, are founders of Mitzvah Matzos, a year-old nonprofit that makes and distributes kosher-for-Passover soft matzahs (mitzvahmatzos.org).

Turns out that for centuries at Passover seders, matzah meant soft, round, handmade pita-like pieces of baked dough, which quickly grew moldy. The invention, in the mid-19th century, of matzah-making machinery that cranked out flat, uniform pieces that stayed fresh indefinitely, changed all that. (Except for Sephardim, for whom soft matzah is a staple.) The trend quickened among Ashkenazim when Jacob Horowitz, an émigré from Hungary and Blaine’s ancestor, opened a matzah bakery on Orchard Street.

In keeping with the theme of the holiday and their “spiritual entrepreneurial mission,” Blaine and Dollinger donate the profits of their 501c3 firm to organizations that combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking. (Horowitz-Margareten is now a subsidiary of private equity firm Bain Capital).

What would Jacob Horowitz think of his great-great-great-granddaughter’s effort to wean people off the matzah crackers he helped popularize?

“I think he’d be proud,” Dolinger says. “He was an entrepreneur. Naomi is an entrepreneur.” — Steve Lipman/New York Jewish Week

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