Historical records matching Bernard Manischewitz
About Bernard Manischewitz
Bernard Manischewitz, Last in Family Firm, Dies at 89 By DOUGLAS MARTIN Published: September 23, 2003 EMAIL PRINT
Bernard Manischewitz, the last member of his family to preside over the worldwide kosher food empire that began when his grandfather opened a small matzo bakery in Cincinnati, died on Saturday at his home in Verona, N.J. He was 89.
Mr. Manischewitz was president of the B. Manischewitz Company for 26 years, until he supervised its sale to a group led by Kohlberg & Company in 1990. At the time, it had $1.5 billion in annual sales and exported its products, from gefilte fish to borscht, around the world.
It then controlled 80 percent of the United States market for matzo, the unleavened bread eaten year-round but especially at Passover.
Mr. Manischewitz's father, Jacob, gave him his first job with the company when he assigned him to inspect the production line to make sure the flat, cracker-like matzos did not break. He eventually became one of the three first cousins who ran the company in its third generation, continuing alone after the others died. The cousins followed the five sons of Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz, who began the bakery in 1888.
In the company's early stages, the rabbi installed certain innovations that were challenged by rabbinical authorities as violating Jewish dietary laws. Rabbi Manischewitz, however, argued strongly that his methods were more sanitary and led to standardized quality.
Rabbi Manischewitz also began insisting in advertisements that customers ask for his matzos by the name Manischewitz in order to counter imitators who copied his original name, Cincinnati matzos.
In 1932, the company built a second factory, in Jersey City, which quickly became the center of operations. By 1949, Bernard Manischewitz's generation had taken over. He was president, D. Beryl Manischewitz was chairman and William Manischewitz was treasurer.
An article in The New York Times in 1951 told how Bernard Manischewitz was leading the company into preparing more than 70 different kosher foods, in addition to matzo, including frozen fish and poultry, canned borscht and chicken soup, and the Tam Tam cracker. Wines with the name Manischewitz were sold throughout the country under a licensing arrangement.
In an interview with The Times in 1956, Mr. Manischewitz suggested that those products signified the biggest change in Jewish domestic life since biblical times. He said all but the most strictly Orthodox homemakers had been released from "the compulsory obsession with the problems of cooking."
He also noted that American processed kosher foods were selling well in Europe and even in Israel.
All this expansion called for snappy — or at least memorable — advertising. One tongue-in-cheek radio ad advised listeners not to eat Manischewitz matzos in bed because they were crispier and so might cause "a crummy night's sleep."
Bernard Manischewitz was born in Cincinnati on Dec. 24, 1913. He attended Syracuse University for a year and graduated from New York University with a business degree. He later took night courses in factory management, his wife, Beatrice, said in an interview yesterday.
His other survivors include his daughters, Edith Best of North Carolina and Elaine Sorki of Haifa, Israel; two children from his wife's first marriage, Harriet Hoffman of Red Hook, N.Y., and Delray Beach, Fla., and Ronald Hoffman of Manhattan and Lake Mahopac, N.Y.; six grandchildren; and 17 great grandchildren.
One of the last battles of his career came in 1990, when the company faced charges of conspiring to fix the price of Passover matzos. It ended in 1991 with the company pleading no contest to a single criminal indictment and paying a $1 million fine.
Mr. Manischewitz was an intensely private man who avoided using his own name to register in hotels and make restaurant reservations, Dr. Hoffman said. He also believed that not dropping his name made good business sense. When he was in Alaska bargaining over the price of whitefish for making gefilte fish, Dr. Hoffman said, he feared that if people knew he was Mr. Manischewitz, they might expect a higher price.