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Phew! Polish Jews Get Matzah – with Last-minute Help from Officials

Some call it a Polish Passover miracle. This year’s shipment of kosher-for-Passover food arrived just in time in Warsaw thanks to the direct intervention of Polish officials.

“Due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe, our shipment was delayed for weeks at the Dutch port of Rotterdam,” Jonah Bookstein, the director of the New York-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation programs in Poland, said from Warsaw.

“Our container left there just three days before Passover by train to Poland,” he said. “All the shipping agents said it would be impossible to get it before the holiday began. They also said it would be quarantined at the Polish border.

“We contacted the Polish border crossing, the Polish customs agency, the Polish veterinary general, and the Polish president’s office,” he said.

The shipment contained a variety of Passover products – ranging from balsamic vinegar to cold cuts and hot dogs, from gefilte fish to salad dressing and toothpaste.

Since foot-and-mouth disease broke out in Great Britain and spread to the Netherlands early this year, stringent controls have been imposed on importing food across national borders.

Bookstein said an official in the office of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski immediately contacted the head of Polish customs to ensure that the container would be cleared and processed as soon as possible.

“The Veterinary General Called the border station” on April 4 “to instruct the border doctor to let the food in on his direct orders,” Bookstein said.

“We received the food at our offices by midnight” of the following day, he said.

“We spent all night dividing up the food into parcels, and shipped them out on pre-dawn trains to Jewish communities around Poland.”

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