Building a shmura matzo factory took a village
Photos: Ben Torres for
Masked and ready to lend a hand is Debby Rice, pictured in the black shirt, in Fort Worth’s shmura matzo bakery.

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

I was on the way home from picking up our son Sam, a University of Georgia junior, at the airport, Thursday night when my cellphone rang. I’ll admit, anytime I see the caller ID or an email pop up on a Thursday and the name of someone who is featured in a story in that week’s TJP. I hold my breath and hope it’s good news and we haven’t made some huge mistakes (It does happen from time to time).

On the other end of the line, I heard the distinct and warm voice of Rabbi Dov Mandel. Hopefully you read the impressive story in last week’s March 25, TJP, about Mandel’s Fort Worth shmura matzo factory. Rabbi Mandel said he was overjoyed with the story, but humble as he is known to be, he couldn’t take the credit, because really it took a village to build this matzo factory and keep the production going leading up to Pesach despite some hardships along the way. He asked if he could write a letter and explain in a little more detail, just how many people came together to make the matzo bakery happen. It follows:

Shavua Tov and Moadim Lesimcha to you Sharon.

“I am very grateful for the beautiful article about the matzo bakery, although I still laugh when I think about the line on the front cover.

“Of course, I get credit for putting it all together, however none of it would’ve happened if not for the entire community pitching in.

The house that the bakery was situated in was purchased with the intent of demolishing it for the construction of a building and parking lot. This purchase couldn’t have happened without the generosity of many community donors, headed by Roz Rosenthal and her family. The oven was purchased after Carlos Ido of Dallas referred me to a local oven designer and builder. Arnold Gachman was responsible for having his dedicated crew find the right sized steel for the oven base and cut it to our specifications. 

Liz Chesser took an active interest all the way from the beginning, pretty much managing the operation as well as packaging, as well as taking the halachic requirements extremely serious. “Robert Nelsen was instrumental in building the oven, as well as providing a significant amount of firewood from his stockpile. Jayne Michel, her daughter Elaine Bumpus, Debby Rice, Sivan Shihmanter and Josh Nadel, all joined our team, and committed themselves and excellently developed a proper routine and produced an excellent product. 

Community members volunteering to work at the matzo bakery are clockwise from bottom left, Sivan Shihmanter, Liz Chesser and Josh Nadel along with two guys from New York who came to pitch in.

Rabbi Mendel Goldman of Oklahoma City joined us and expertly mixed and blended the flour, and directed the flour, water and mixing operation. Alex Nason and Luba Gershengoren, found us an excellent helper, Svitlana Pavzyuk

“Last but not least, my son Mendel who took a break from yeshiva to assist in the production. Of course, my good friend Monica O’Desky, and her hounds who welcomed me with a chorus of excited barking  and provided the well water and listened to my kvetching and cheered me on. 

Chris Scruggs assisted in many different ways together with Rick Klotz

“I cannot overstate the support and faith that my wife, Chana Tovah Mandel, had placed in me and quietly stands by my side, keeping me sane and focused to achieve my goals. 

“As you can now see, my success is only as a result of standing on the shoulders of these community members and their incredible help and work. These people inspire me and give me the ability to envision even greater plans for the Fort Worth Jewish Community. I have always believed that we can achieve great things together, and we have just proven that to ourselves. 

“I am probably forgetting some people, and this doesn’t even include the incredibly bright rabbis and matzo professionals who gave me expert advice and technical assistance in reaching this goal.”

“Sincerely, Rabbi Dov Mandel.”

Rabbi Mandel, I wish you and the community that helped you a  hearty “Yasher Koach.” May the Fort Worth matzo bakery only grow from strength to strength and please God there will be many homes in North Texas that serve your shmura matzos when they gather with their families in-person next Pesach.

After I disconnected the call Thursday, Sam turned to me and said. Sounded like he liked the story. I smiled and exhaled.

We wish everyone a wonderful conclusion to Pesach. We love to hear from our readers, send your news to me at

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