Gluten-free Passover – Powell Tribune

They were a long way from Lakewood, New Jersey. Rabbi Moshe Feldman, Yaakov Feldman, and Simcha Guzik are Orthodox Jews who came out to Powell to watch over the harvest of oats on Wednesday.

They aren’t farmers. Monitoring every aspect of the production of oats used in unleavened bread, called matzah, is an important part of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

In their own practices, Orthodox Jewish communities use shmurah matzah, which is matzah that is guarded from contamination by leaven from the time of summer harvest to its baking months later.

“We’re basically supervising,” the rabbi, wearing a brimless cap called a kippah, explained as the oats poured from a dumptruck into the auger to be loaded in the bin.

Contrary to many people’s understanding of kosher food, rabbis don’t make food kosher with a blessing. It’s more a monitoring of the process to make sure it’s not contaminated with anything that would go against proper traditions.

For example, there are only five grains that are allowed by their faith to be made into bread, so a rabbi must make sure no non-kosher grains are mixed in with the oats used to make matzah.

“It’s quality control,” said Yaakov Feldman with a noticeable New York accent.

For someone practicing Hebrew traditions who can’t eat gluten, finding gluten free shmurah matzah can be a challenge. That’s where Powell’s GF Harvest comes in.

Looking to provide matzah for those with gluten sensitivities, a company contracts with GF Harvest, coordinating with rabbis to make sure the food is produced according to Orthodox Jewish standards.

GF Harvest contracts with Heart Mountain area farmer Mike Forman to produce oats.

At Forman’s field near Kamm’s Corner, the rabbi and his assistants rode in the tractors and watched the oats being loaded into the truck.

Guzik, who was using part of his vacation time to help with the harvest, stayed with the bin at Dan Laursen’s farm until it was full, after which he sealed it. Later, rabbis will return to break the seal and oversee the dehulling process.

Passover isn’t until April, but there’s a lot to be done before then.

“We’re preparing months in advance,” Guzik said.

They also source grains from other fields in Montana and New Jersey.

The following day, Thursday, they planned to head to Yellowstone National Park, Guzik said, “so we can see the beauty God has blessed you with here in Wyoming.”