Nysha Recent News

Well Before Purim, a Taste of Passover at a Community Matzah Bakery

April 18, 2016  

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette


Hamaspik of Rockland County’s Day Hab Gets Hands-on Familiarity

It wasn’t even Purim.  But Hamaspik of Rockland County Men’s Division Day Hab Director Pinchas Knopfler was already getting his “boys” ready for Passover.

The latter holiday, coming exactly one month after the former holiday, is centered on matzah: The crunchy, flat and round crackers that are rife with symbolism.

Using nothing but the cleanest wheat flour and the purest water, matzah bakeries begin mixing ingredients and rapidly baking them on site around Chanukah time.

Months later, with huge stocks of matzah ready for the seasonal demand, and preparations for Pesach (Passover) in high gear, matzah bakeries are beehives of activity.

It was into this world of regimented chaos that the gentlemen of the Men’s Division of the Hamaspik of Rockland County Day Habilitation (Day Hab) program stepped on a late-February morning.

Being part of the machine

Synchronicity, precision and timing are all critical to the operation of a kosher matzah bakery.

The central cog around which all bakery clockwork turns is an essential fact of culinary physics: Dough rises in 18 minutes.

To thus prevent any freshly-mixed dough from rising and turning into leaven (that is, any dough completing that natural process, a Bible-sized no-no come Passover), bakery workers rush hand-mixed dough from mixing pot to rolling tables to long insertion rods to wood-fired ovens in under 18 minutes.

The visitors from Hamaspik were graciously granted the opportunity to see the workstations firsthand and up-close, with several even wielding the yards-long spatulas to extract the freshly-baked crackers from the oven from a safe distance.

A good hour later, with the gentlemen having made their rounds of the premises and even posing for several photos, the group headed back to Hamaspik’s Day Hab center.

Community acclimation

Passover may have been just under two months away at the time of their visit, Mr. Knopfler noted in his program’s weekly newsletter—but not far away enough to preclude a preparatory excursion.

“We’re thinking ahead and getting ready,” Knopfler wrote, “with less than 60 days left until we’re seated at the Seder table.”

Community acclimation has long been a central value at Hamaspik that dates back to its very founding.  The agency was created in 1986 to give members of the community affected by disability the maximum access to their benefits, and the opportunity to maximize their abilities, in environments in which they are most comfortable.

Fast-forward three decades, and that value dovetails perfectly with the contemporary value of providing support, not “care”—and of putting the individual and his or her personal and communal culture at the center of that support.

In continuing its commitment to person-centered and value-centered support, such as not just providing proper IRA group-home Seders but also exposing individuals to the communal infrastructure making possible those Seders, Hamaspik is doing just that.