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Amid an Overall Kosher Shortage, Central Europe Faces Passover Plenty

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Central European Jews are facing a shortage of rabbinical supervisors to certify a growing need for kosher products.

“Our capacity is not enough to fulfill all the demands, which are coming not only from Hungary, but also from other countries, like from Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland,” said Hermann Fixler, president of Hungary’s Orthodox Jewish community.

“In the last 15 years, we imported a supervisor from Israel,” Hungarian-born Rabbi Aron Hofmann, who “cannot fulfill this job alone,” Fixler said.

But he added that there should be enough Passover matzah, as they have certified more than 22,000 pounds of matzah that was baked in the community’s own bakery in what used to be an Orthodox Jewish enclave in downtown Budapest before World War II.

With approximately 100,000 Jews, the Hungarian community is the largest in Central Europe.

Part of the kosher certification problem stems from the fact that Hungary’s official Jewish community doesn’t want to yield its monopoly over the process.

The Orthodox Union, one of the major certifier of kosher products in the United States, is willing to come into Hungary — and their service will be cheaper, said Peter Tordai, the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities.

Indeed, Hungarian producers are sending some honey samples to the New York offices of the O.U.

But that possibility doesn’t seem to be materializing.

“The O.U. cannot do anything without us; it’d be against the law,” said Fixler.

At the same time, the Hungarian kosher market faces the possibility of expansion, both at home and abroad.

“There are dozens of wine producers in Hungary who want to join the kosher market,” said Tordai, whose own company is involved in selling kosher wine to large chains in Hungary.

One of the best examples of the growing interest for Hungarian kosher products is the Zwack Unicum liquor company’s plum brandy.

“There is a growing need now not only from the Jewish, but also from the non- Jewish population for our kosher brandy, as we sell them for big chains and a number of hotels and restaurants as well,” said Eva Schleicher the company’s deputy general director.

Hungarian kosher meat producers are also trying to enter the American kosher market, said an official with Hungary’s Agricultural Ministry.

The ministry recently set up a special department to aid kosher production and export from Hungary.

CORRECTION: In the story sent Tuesday about Deborah Lipstadt’s reaction after she won the libel suit brought against her by David Irving, the first paragraph should read, “The day before she emerged victorious from a libel lawsuit brought against her by a Holocaust denier, Passover preparations occupied Deborah Lipstadt’s mind.”

The original lede made it appear that the suit had been brought against Irving.

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