It’s true. Manischewitz, which manufactures the bite-size matzos, says it has temporarily stopped making them at its plant in Newark, leaving many Jews puzzled and disappointed, and officials of the kosher food company scrambling to explain what went wrong.
“What we did was put a brand new oven in our Newark facility,” David Rossi, a spokesman for Manischewitz, said on Thursday. “Much higher speeds, all computer-controlled, a state-of-the-art baking line. That was something we were hoping to have up and running well prior to the Passover baking season. Due to some engineering delays, we missed the window.”
Unfortunately, the plant in Newark is the only one in the world that produces Manischewitz matzos and Tam Tam crackers, Mr. Rossi explained, because the company recently consolidated its operations, which were once in two other New Jersey cities, Jersey City and Vineland.
The news was first reported in The New Jersey Jewish News.
In December, Mr. Rossi said, company officials were forced to make a difficult decision: temporarily eliminate some of their products or make less of all them. They went with the former, which included halting production of some less popular products like Passover Thin Tea Matzo, Yolk Free Egg Matzo, White Grape Matzo, Concord Grape Matzo and Spelt Matzo.
“Man-Oh-Manischewitz!” sighed Avi Friede, owner of Kosher Nosh Delicatessen in Glen Rock, N.J., invoking a longtime company slogan. “That’s right, I don’t have any Tam Tams on my shelf.”
Not to worry, Mr. Rossi said. Many other unleavened products will still be available for Passover, which begins the evening of April 19.
And Tam Tams — which were first developed in 1940 and now account for $1 million to $2 million in annual sales — will be back on shelves by late April or early May, he said.
His assurances went only so far.
“It’s very upsetting,” said Diana Leader-Cramer, 24, a research analyst for Merrill Lynch. “I’m very distraught.” She said she would just have to make do with regular old Passover matzo this year.
Mr. Friede said that he used to serve Tam Tams with soup, but stopped a few years ago, either because of rising costs or a shortage, he could not remember which.
Besides, he said, the product had not sold as well in recent years and the younger generation seemed to lack an affinity for it.
“I think that generation has either moved to Florida or passed on,” he said. “My kids, my grandchildren, don’t go for that stuff.”
In Teaneck, N.J., which has a large Orthodox Jewish population, some shoppers said they had noticed the recent shortage and had been scrounging for the crackers.
“My mother found a few up in Rockland County,” said Toni Nayowitz, owner of Judaica House Ltd., a bookstore and trinket shop. “They’re as scarce as hen’s teeth.”
Ms. Nayowitz said her husband, who crumbles plain Tam Tams into his coffee (“his deep, dark secret”), has simply had to do without in recent months.
Eldee Stephens, 28, of Waterbury, Conn., an engineer with I.B.M., said that fortunately, his wife tends to hoard the crackers, so they should have plenty on hand for the foreseeable future.
“The stuff lasts forever,” said Mr. Stephens, who dips his in salsa. “It’s not like matzo can really go stale. At least I can’t tell if it does.”