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Warren Buffett makes an important pre-Passover purchase

March 29, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Warren Buffett, left, purchases chametz, or foods forbidden to Jews during the Passover holiday, from Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Omaha, Neb.
Warren Buffett, left, purchases chametz, or foods forbidden to Jews during… (Orthodox Union )

Is this a buy sign for bread crumbs?

Billionaire Warren Buffett purchased bread crumbs -- and just about anything else that has wheat and the other grains forbidden to Jews during the observance of Passover -- from a local rabbi, Jonathan Gross of Beth Israel Synagogue in Omaha, Neb.

It is ritual that goes on worldwide in Jewish communities. Families designate rabbis to find a non-Jew such as Buffett to purchase their chametz, or food made with leavening, before the holiday. The rabbis typically re-purchase the banned food after Passover, which this year starts April 6 at sundown.

Before the transaction, Gross didn’t actually know Omaha’s most famous resident, but that didn’t stop him from writing to Buffett.

“I have a business deal that you may be interested in,” Gross wrote.

Buffett agreed and arranged to meet the rabbi. Buffett paid $2 for three large containers of food -- packaged foods and canned goods stored at Beth Israel -- which he then donated to the Food Bank of the Heartland in Omaha.

The donation freed Gross from a situation even seasoned business executives would try to avoid: haggling to get the food back from the nation’s most famous businessman. The donation also helped the congregation’s seasonal food drive.

With the exception of unleavened bread known as matzo, anything made from grains is off limits to Jews during the eight-day festival of Passover, which commemorates their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Most Jews of European ancestry also refrain from eating food containing rice, peanuts, beans or corn.

Matzo symbolizes the hurried fashion in which the Israelites escaped the pharaoh's bondage; they fled without waiting for their bread dough to rise.

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