The topic of challah has become quite a talking point.Â Here in Perth we have lost two of our regular weekly producers of kosher certified Challah, and as good as the remaining supplier’s productÂ is,Â consumers in any marketÂ preferÂ for it notÂ to be monopolised.
We have not known times when the supply of challah was an issue of concern.Â However, consider this scene that I observed at the weekend.Â A family invitation to an elderly friend or relative (I’m not exactly sure if they are technically relatives, but close enough to count as such, even if not genetically true) for Rosh Hashana dinner is offered.Â The lady accepts with delight andÂ asks what she can contribute.Â Â She is asked if she can buy the challahs.Â Not a problem.Â She asks how many, and is toldÂ that four are needed.Â Her purse opens, she pulls out $5 andÂ asks if thisÂ will this cover it.Â She is told that they will cost $5 each (and even that may be an underestimation!) and just about falls off herÂ chair.
My own family will spend more than $80 on challahs this Yom Tov, unless we get the opportunity to bake our own, which is fast become an economic necessity.Â Â
Now we find that the issue may not stop there.Â Â The ATO wants to tax our challah’s with GST.Â Thanks very much, that will be an extra $8.00.Â If the challah is not a staple of the Shabbat diet, then things haveÂ gone drastically wrong.Â I’m sure there are ways around the issue.Â For example, we can buy challahsÂ that have been baked in a loaf tray.Â They are simply loaves of bread with a platted top.Â Surely the commericalisationÂ of challah in this format will withstand theÂ “luxury” nature of the product?
Tax aside,Â it is not just Australia that is feeling the pinch of the cost of living.Â An article in the British press on 10Â Sept 2008 reads as follows:
“Â Keeping kosher in Europe is more costly these days just as it is in the U.S. and Israel where prices have risen 5% – 10% in the past few months. According to an article in the London Chronicle, people who keep kosher are scaling back with their purchases.Â
Avi Avital of Hendon Bagel Bakery told the Chronicle, “People are not spending like they did
before. Those who used to buy five or six challot a week now only buy one or two. People are really cutting down.
In Paris, the cost of many Israeli items has risen in the past few months, as have many local items. Similar increases are affecting Jews in Antwerp. The cost of kosher wines from the U.S. and Israel has risen as well. Golders Green butcher Menachem Haziza told the Chronicle, “In the past eight months everything has gone up and the whole balance has changed. People are buying less. Some of my regular customers who usually put in large orders have cut them down somewhat.”
A Paris butcher said, “People are asking me for cheaper meats and these are some of the same people who used to ask for prime cuts.”
Similar stories are being printed in the USA, and it is a feature of Israeli newspapers to read of a significant portion of the population who are below the poverty line and who cannot buy bread.
Whilst it has not been a general communal concern that families cannot extend their weekly budget to the point that challah on the table becomes an added luxury, the cost of maintaining a kosher home, generally 30% to 40% more expensive than the alternative, is now a real issue that we cannot ignore.Â A kilo block of cheese now costs $23.50.Â A kilo of mince is $19.00 and a kilo of steak is $45.00.Â A chicken costs about $19.00.Â These prices cannot be sustained by the average income.
Families have already changed their eating habits, not to mention their social habits, as a result of the cost of food.Â The problem is the trend is only moving one way, and one shudders to think about what it will cost come next Pesach, or where the “cost of challah” inflation index will be this time next year when Rosh Hashana rolls around again.Â