Pesach, or Passover, is a weeklong festival commemorating the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and their release from slavery. A central symbol of the holiday is matzoh, or unleavened bread. Because the Israelites had to flee Egypt before their bread could fully rise, they ate flat bread throughout their sojourn in the desert. Jews continue to commemorate that episode by removing all leavened products (chametz) from their homes before the beginning of Passover. In place of leavened bread, Jews may eat matzoh. Unlike chametz, the flour in matzoh must not be in contact with water for more than eighteen minutes, so that it does not ferment before baking; and no yeast is used.
Images in the Sondheim collection attest to the widespread and continued importance of matzoh in Jewish life. Wherever there were Jews, even in small numbers as in India, strategies for matzoh-baking were devised. While the techniques and situations for baking matzoh have varied over the centuries, its presence at the Passover Seder and throughout the week of Passover has been a constant in Jewish life. By the late nineteenth century, its production and distribution had become highly industrialized.
|2. Das küchen bachen. Paul Christian Kirchner. Jüdisches Ceremoniel, oder, Beschreibung dererjenigen Gebräuche. Nürnberg: Peter Conrad Monath, 1724.|
|4. General View of Preparing and Baking Matzoth, the Unleavened Bread for the Passover. In: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 10, 1858.|
|5. Haggadah shel Pesach = Die Pessach-Haggadah. Vienna : Jos. Schlesinger, 1928. 2. verb. Aufl.|