Shoppers ponder the meaning of Manischewitz

Manischewitz will sell most of its kosher products to KayCo, the companies announced last week. Flickr

A minor tremor hit the Jewish food world last week as the Manischewitz Co. announced it was selling its kosher food business. The brand that practically means Jewish — sweet wine, matzah, macaroons, Shabbat candles and candied fruit slices — will be purchased by kosher food company Kayco, Manischewitz said on July 30.

As the news spread, Washington-area shoppers seemed to be taking it in stride.

“I want to know more about the company buying [Manischewitz],” said Benson Goldstein, who was about to do his Shabbat shopping at Moti’s Market in Rockville. “It doesn’t necessarily bother me, as long as they keep it kosher.”

“There are bigger problems in the world than [a brand changing],” said Nancy Wiseman, as she did her shopping.

She said that she associates Manischewitz with Shabbat dinners and Passover seders and “all that good stuff.”

Details of the acquisition are sketchy; the transaction will occur “in the near future,” according to a press release. And it isn’t clear if the 131-year old iconic Manischewitz name and logo will still appear on the products.

The New York Times reported that the purchase includes nearly all of Manischewitz products. The brand will keep its Season brand.

“The matzah meal from Passover, that one think I’ll always love about Manischewitz,” Goldstein said.

“I’m not too picky about which hescher I follow,” Mara Greengrass said, using the word for kosher certification. “But [Mansichewitz] is always the brand we buy for Passover. [As a kid] I loved the grape juice. It’s an iconic brand.”

At Holy Chow kosher Chinese takeout in Silver Spring, Eli Schreiber, 13, said he loves Manischewitz matzah meal and the matzah brei his grandmother fries up from it. “It’s one of the highlights of my Pesach,” he said. “It’s just so good.”

“My memory is definitely of Passover,” said Sara Bajkowski. “If you brought a bunch [of Manischewitz items] you would get free haggadahs.”

Like Bajkowski, many people associate Manischewitz with Passover.

And while many Jews also associate it with its wine — “Man, oh Manischewitz, what a wine,” went the jingle — Manischewitz actually sold off its wine brand in 1987.

The acquisition means that Kayco will be the biggest supplier of kosher food, more than half of the kosher market. Brands Kayco distributes include Gefen, Kedem, Bartenura, Empire Kosher and Elite.

But despite Manischewitz’s ubiquity, some people grew up unaware of the brand’s role in Jewish culture.

Take Ari Hakowitz, who was exploring the wine section at Shalom Kosher in Silver Spring.

“We never really had Manischewitz except on Pesach,” he said. “The first time I heard people making a big deal out of it was in Adam Sandler’s Chanukah movie. That’s the first time I heard of it being a Jewish stereotype.”

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