Baking for a good cause

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PAWTUCKET – Several times a week, in the lead-up to Passover, volunteers gather in the kitchen at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to bake matzah. Most are members of the Jewish community, but there are other volunteers who simply want to support the group’s mission.

This is the second year of baking for Mitzvah Matzos, a nonprofit started by Rabbi Barry Dolinger of Temple Beth Sholom in Providence, and his wife, Naomi Baine. All the profits from sales of the matzah go to fight slavery in the form of human trafficking, and to educate the community about modern-day slavery.

These are shmura matzot, prepared in exactly 18 minutes from the time the water hits the flour to the moment they are pulled from the oven. Unlike what many people are accustomed to, these matzot are soft.

Thicker, softer matzah is considered closer to the matzah that was baked thousands of years ago. Some also consider it Sephardic matzah. Soft matzah also has a short shelf life.

On the day these photos were taken, the team prepared more than 90 matzot, setting a new baking-day record. The matzot are baked six to a tray in two 500-degree ovens. Last year, the teams averaged 60-70 per day. This year, the average is 80. While the ingredients and methods are standard, each matzah is as unique as its baker, according to one of the bakers.

This year, the matzah is available for $20 per package of three at the Mitzvah Matzos website, mitzvahmatzos.org. Pickup is in person at various buying clubs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The matzah is certified Kosher by Lighthouse Kosher.

Baking will continue for a couple of weeks, and Rabbi Dolinger said he expects the matzah to sell out.For more information and to order, visit mitzvahmatzos.org.

FRAN OSTENDORF is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.