JCC Newsletter – Shmini

What’s more Jewish? A Family-Owned Union Shop or Private Equity?

In the late 19th/early 20th century, Jewish representation in organized labor was a given. Organizations like the Bund with origins in Europe or others like the Workmen’s Circle, United Hebrew Trades and the Jewish Labor Committee founded by European Jews in America focused their efforts on securing better conditions and wages for the then Asheknazi underclass who sewed the shirts, slaughtered the chickens and baked the matzahs for the burgeoning American Jewish community. Against that backdrop, two matzah companies were formed whose paths have radically diverged since 1991.

Manischewitz, the undisputed champion of the Jewish food market, was founded in Cincinnati in 1888 and went public in 1923, last trading for $750-$1000 a share on the Cincinnati Stock Exchange. While the not-so-nice Jewish boys and private equity guys Kohlberg Kravis Roberts acted as the proverbial Barbarians at the Gate in their pursuit of RJR Nabisco, they decided to diversify into the unleavened space by acquiring Manischewitz in a $40.5 million Management Buyout in 1991. From there, the firm lost its family roots and much like its matzahs would be repackaged and sold, first to the hedge fund Harbinger Capital, then to an arm of Bain Capital and finally winding up the property of the good people at Kayco Corporation based out of Bayonne, NJ.

Streit’s on the other hand provides a much simpler narrative. Founded on New York’s Lower East Side in 1916 and still run by the Streit Family, the company only closed its iconic Rivington Street bakery, known with affection as the ‘Jewish Plymouth Rock’, in 2015. Staying true to their union roots, the company guaranteed every worker’s job when they moved the factory a mere 27 miles north to the Lower Hudson Valley. Manischewitz matzahs are certified by the Orthodox Union who control 80% of the kosher market but Streit’s has stuck with the Soloveichik Family to ensure every matzah they bake is fit for Passover consumption.

To be clear, not all was kosher in the matzah business. Although punctilious about ensuring the dough didn’t rise, Streit’s, Manischewitz and the once large, but now defunct Horowitz Margareten had no problem cooking the books between 1982-1986. Upon being indicted by a federal grand jury, the firms pled no contest to price fixing with Judge Harold Ackerman, no stranger to the thin crackers, imposing a $1 million fine which he described as ‘just deserts’ for the illicit conduct of America’s matzah manufacturers.


Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, April 14th
Services: 6:00pm
No dinner on account of the kitchen being turned back over to chametz

Shabbat Parshat Shmini
Anniversary of Amos Sitbon’s Bar Mitzvah
Kiddush sponsored by the Nadler Family in memory of Peter’s mom, Marta Nadler
Saturday, April 15th
Services: 10:00am
Kiddush: 12:00pm

Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, April 21st
Services: 6:00pm
Dinner by Reservation: 7:00pm

Kabbalat Shabbat
Friday, April 28th
Services: 6:00pm
Dinner by Reservation: 7:00pm

Shabbat Parshat Achrei Mot-Kedoshim
Bat Mitzvah of Jessie Fishelberg
Saturday, April 29th
Services: 10:00am
Kiddush: 12:15pm


Yom HaShoah Commemoration
Remarks by Israeli Ambassador Gilad Cohen
Monday, April 17th 7:00pm at the JCC
Doors open at 6:30pm
Event Registration

80th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
In Partnership with Kokoro-Holocaust Education Resource Center
Music by JCC Member Janos Cegledy
Lecture by Dr. Mariusz Jastrząb, Chief Education Specialist and guide at Education Department of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland
Wednesday, April 19th 7:00pm
Doors open at 6:30pm
In-person Registration
Registration for Japanese-speaking participants online
Registration for English-speaking participants online

If you have an idea for an event or a topic you would like to share with others, please visit our website.


Condolences to the Jaffee Family on the passing of Al, 102 famed cartoonist most notable for his work on Mad Magazine’s Fold-In’s especially the Allighty Ollar.

Condolences to the Ferencz Family on the passing of Ben, 103 the last living Nuremberg prosecutor.

Condolences to the Dee Family of Efrat on the tragic loss of wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina. May the family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Thank you to the herculean, Moses splitting-the-sea like efforts of the JCC staff in pulling off two incredible back-to-back seders. The kitchen rose to the occasion with Lena, Izaki-san, Mizuki-san and an army of line cooks, waiters and dishwashers combining to work their gastronomic magic. Tal, Rachel and Timor handled last minute sign-ups and arrivals at the front door with ease. Ayako-san balanced the books to ensure that the seder tradition of eating the lachma anya/poor bread of affliction did not throw the JCC too deep into the Red (Sea).

Not overtly seen but no less appreciated are the contributions of past and present board members Dan Turk, Carmel Rosenthal and Jerry Rosenberg who helped get our Passover order into the port and to the JCC. Fellow Board member Sherry Greenfield shlepped Kosher for Passover croutons from New Jersey for us to enjoy on Thursday night and the Sitbon Family contributed Kosher for Passover candies that our Sunday Schoolers devoured. Thank you to everyone who signed up for seders. Your presence made all the difference.

We pulled off the minyan this past Thursday morning keeping our Chag streak alive for the first time since Rabbis Schudrich and Silberschein in the go-go bubble economy 1980s. We are proud to have revived the tradition in the 5780s. Somehow, we also managed a mincha on the 7th Day. Thank you to David Tropp, Todd Walzer and Raymond Possick for leading/leyning.

JCC Member Dr. Jamie Gerber is starting a chapter of Walk with a Doc here in Tokyo. It is a way to get people outside and walking while sharing information on a general health topic. The first walk will be next week, Friday, April 21 at 9am in Yoyogi Park. Walks will take place every 1st and 3rd Friday at 9am.

The JCC office will be closed during Golden Week from 4/30-5/8.

Yiddish Club with Jack Halpern: Monthly meetings have been taking place for quite some time in-person at the JCJ. Please contact Jack at jack@cjki.org if you are interested. All levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced. Much more than just language, the club enjoys exploring Yiddish culture as well.

Shabbat Parshat Shmini
Candle Lighting: 5:55pm
Havdala: 6:53pm