Estonia taxes matzoh bread

  • 2000-04-06
TALLINN (BNS) – The Estonian government is making it expensive for its Jewish residents to eat special Passover bread, demanding a duty of 25,000 kroons ($1,523), or more than a dollar per kilogram, on it.

Real Passover bread is baked only in Israel. Because of that, a huge quantity of matzoh, made with only flour and water and without yeast or salt, is baked yearly in Israel and distributed throughout the world, including the Baltic countries.

This year, 6.5 tons of the Israeli-baked matzoh will soon arrive in the Latvian capital of Riga from where Estonian and Latvian Jews will have to fetch it. If Lithuania and Latvia do not impose any taxes on the bread, Estonian authorities are demanding that the Jewish community pay a duty of 25,000 kroons on their 1.4 ton consignment, the daily Sonumileht reported.

Sonumileht said there are about 4,000 Jews in Estonia whose religion does not permit them to eat any other bread than Israeli-baked matzoh during the week of Passover. If they do not get the matzoh, they will have to go without the religous food, which has a highly symbolical meaning for Jews.

Chairman of the Estonian Jewish community David Slomka said the community's only hope is Prime Minister Mart Laar.

"What does Laar intend to do to solve the issue? If the government does not solve the problem, this will give a very nasty impression of Estonian laws," Sonumileht reported Slomka as saying.

In previous years, the government has never asked money for the import of matzoh, not even in 1999, Slomka added.