The onset of spring break is welcomed with open arms. Everyone agrees that it marks the start of a short period of respite from being constantly inundated with work (However, even that is not entirely accurate, considering the amount of papers and midterms due once we return!) Being the highly diverse campus that on which it prides itself, Queens College has a student population that celebrates various holidays that coincide with this break. Many celebrate Good Friday and Easter. I, along with many other Jews, celebrate Passover. From an Economics and Finance lens, my opinion of Passover is that it has metamorphosed into a significant business boosting opportunity for the kosher food industry-a perspective that my Jewish constituents might very well consider sacrilegious given the highly religious and holy nature of this holiday.
Most people immediately associate Passover with Matzo, wine, and the Exodus from Egypt. Those who celebrate the holiday dread the month-long countdown. Even though it is only 8 days and an enjoyable time spent with family and friends, Passover entails a tremendous amount of preparation and work, perhaps rival to that of what the Israelites faced in Egypt. (How fitting!) All this work requires spending a ton of money. It is not uncommon that, on a shopping excursion at Shoprite, one spends upwards of $150-and there are multiple such trips. The reason behind the tremendous expense is not simply due to the high prices of kosher for Passover food. To understand why, think about what this holiday entails: 8 days of eating nothing with leavened bread (by Jewish law, we mean that the flour has not been exposed to
water, from harvest through baking, for more than 18 minutes); people have developed customs of also refraining from rice and beans. To put that in perspective, for almost my entire Spring Break, I do not eat pizza, pretzels, chips, sushi, and hummus, as well as any food made in even the same facilities as any of these items. With so many forbidden foods, a complete overhaul of one’s pantry is necessary. As a result, people must replenish their food stock entirely. Moreover, people buy even more fruits and vegetables than usual in order to counterbalance the many heavy, albeit delicious, meals. Finally, each person is required to drink 4 cups of wine at each of the 2 Seders; on average, there are more than 5 people at a Seder. That ends up being a lot of wine-and a bottle of wine is not cheap. It comes as no surprise that with a new food stockpile, tons of produce, and a new supply of wine, people celebrating Passover, even without realizing it, quickly spend a small fortune. Try as you might-and trust me, I tried-it is nearly impossible to stay below a set budget, unless that threshold is unlimited.
With the potential for making a tremendous amount of revenue, it comes as no surprise that many companies choose to specialize in the market for Passover items. Stores, especially on the East Coast, predict the increased demand and therefore designate special aisles exclusively with kosher for Passover foods. Additionally, in trying to connect with customers, they frequently have promotions offering free boxes of Matzo after spending a certain amount. I have noticed that over the years there has been a growing selection of foods available. A distinct trait of the kosher for Passover foods industry is that it is dynamic in nature. Indeed, there are the normal brands that everyone associates with the holiday that produce the classic Jewish foods, such as Manischewitz grape juice and Rokeach gefilte fish. However, there are so many more possibilities to choose from today- people might just forget the severe limitations that are imposed on them for these 8 days. There are cake mixes, cookies, and other prepared foods that are delectable. Also, there are new products on the market that will spice up any dull meal. For example, there was a great deal of excitement in the Jewish community recently when the Orthodox Union, a top kosher agency, declared that quinoa can now be eaten on Passover. Time for a new tradition!
I predict that I will gain at least 10 pounds over Passover because of all my mother’s delicious food, but right now I am doing a ton of exercise. My house is currently hectic because of the many last minute preparations to which we must attend. Of course, I need to squeeze in some time to seek out those Easter sales at the mall, so I must go!