In the backyard of the Magen David Synagogue at Byculla, more than 20 local bakers have been working overtime in a makeshift kitchen since Monday.
Their hands covered with dough, the bakers are striving to complete 10,000 hand-made crackers of matzo, or unleavened bread, days ahead of Passover.
Passover, which will start on April 6, is an eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates the exodus of Jews from Egypt.
“The biblical narrative relates that the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not have the time to wait for the bread dough to rise,” said Solomon Sopher, president and chairman of the city’s two Baghdadi Jewish synagogues.
Thus, the Jews ate flat bread for the next eight days.
“Preparations to make the hand-made matzo crackers began early this week, almost ten days before the festivities,” said Sopher, adding that the matzo symbolises freedom and redemption.
The matzo prepared at the Magen David Synagogue is distributed to Jews settled across the country including those in Mumbai, Goa, Cochin and Kolkata.
For community members such as Sharon Galsurkar, a Jewish educator, the matzo is prepared in his own house. “It is very similar to preparing chapattis. Owing to time constraints, some Jews also plan a community festive meal. We organise festive evenings during the eight days, where families get together and share their bread,” said Galsurkar. “Each year, we also get boxes of Israeli machine-made matzos delivered to our homes. We then distribute it to other community members as a sign of freedom,” he said.
Explaining the traditional technique to prepare the unleavened bread, Galsurkar said that the bread should not be allowed to bake for more than 18 minutes. "The water and flour mixture cannot be allowed to rest at any point in time. It is a continuous process, and the bread in the oven has to be removed seconds before it begins to rise,” he said.