20 years ago, Dayan Osher Westheim Shlita and the Manchester Beis Din were very concerned about providing oat matzo for persons unable to eat normal wheat matzos.

Rabbi Kestenbaum was also very concerned. He saw a little girl of 9 weeping bitterly because she feared that she will not be able to have any matzo on Pessach even after she will become Bas Mitzva Rabbi Kestenbaum was determined to help her.

Dayan Westheim and the Manchester Beis din arranged for a small amount of oat flour to be harvested. The milling was done by hand by the staff of the Beis Din and sent to Rabbi Kestenbaum, who had it baked by hand and packed in Rabbi Kestenbaum's home.

There was only enough for approximately 15 people and to the surprise of the Kestenbaum family, hundreds came calling for such matzo and Rabbi Kestenbaum was only able to give one Ka-tzayit per person.

Dayan Westheim was in constant contact with Rabbi Kestenbaum and he and his staff at the Manchester Beis Din worked very hard to progress this venture.

The hand baking was very difficult and time consuming and therefore more costly than anticipated.

For the first three years, these matzos were distributed free of charge and the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations in London and the Golders Green Beis Hamedrash helped to subsidize them. It was not anticipated that the costs and demand would increase so greatly during these three years. It was therefore decided that people using these matzos should pay for them. Anyone who needs these matzos and cannot afford them should contact his local Kimcho Depischo and his Rabbi and then in strict confidence Rabbi Kestenbaum of London. Hospital patients can receive these matzos free of charge with their kosher meals but must firstly request them.

Rabbi Ephraim Kestenbaum’s gluten free shemura oat matzos machine made and very mehudar hand made matzos are the only matzos in the world which are free of gluten. Patients of celiac’s disease and some other diseases may not have matzos containing gluten.

Rabbi Kestenbaum together with Dayan Osher Westheim were looking far and wide for gluten free oats and asked many farmers all over the world to test their oats at his expense.

They then started to breed oats with a lower gluten content and after 4 years were happily surprised to come across a very small patch of gluten free oats on the farm in Scotland. Tests at health laboratories confirmed that these exceptional oats are free of gluten.

He then used them for seeding in Scotland and the following year a beautiful crop of gluten free oats appeared. He has since continued with these gluten free oats with his own seeds for years and they are constantly tested. These matzos are sent all over the world.

The milling is very difficult. Sometimes 80% of the flour and grains are lost because of other difficulties. We cite one example. Oats have a very bitter enzyme and are normally injected with steam in the groat stage to eliminate the bitterness which of course makes oats chometz. As we could not inject steam the matzos therefore had a very unpleasant taste, but people who could not otherwise keep the mitzvah were still grateful to have them. In due course we overcame this problem by special cleaning, grinding and milling numerous times.

The baking also presents many problems and because the oat flour lacks gluten it is very hard to knead and to bake. Often we suffer a huge amount of wastage and the baking procedure has to be done very many times until we are able to produce a small amount of matzos. There is only one machine matzo bakery in the world at this time which is able to cope with these problems. Their specially trained staff are to be commended for their exceptional performance and unstinting efforts and strict adherence to the complicated halochos. The baking requires the presence of Rabbi Kestenbaum and his children at all times for guidance and support.

The production of these matzos is under the hashgocho of Dayan Osher Westheim Shlita from long before the harvest until after the finished matzos are packed in boxes, which are sealed and stamped. The growth of the grains must be closely monitored and supervised from the time of seeding to avoid contamination from other growths containing gluten.

All our matzos, machine and hand are gluten free and shemura. The hand matzos are very mehudar. The machine matzos are not completely made by machine and very much hand work goes into them, particularly during the kneading. However, we refer to them as machine matzos because they differ from the completely hand baked. The hand matzos are round and each box holds 3 matzos.

The gluten free matzo meal is made from broken pieces of gluten free shemura oat matzos, ground into matzo-meal and packed into attractive one pound boxes.

Apart from celiac’s disease, there are patients suffering from a range of other medical conditions and illnesses who may not eat any other matzos.

A gentleman from the Far East telephoned and did not want to speak to Rabbi Kestenbaum but only to Mrs. Kestenbaum saying that he “needs to speak to her about matzos which she bakes in her kitchen”. A number of overseas people believe that.

When in doubt, Rabbi Kestenbaum recommends consulting with your own doctor and he is always happy to assist with further information upon request.

The gluten free shemura oat matzos and matzo-meal and flour are available at numerous distributors in Israel, Britain, USA, Belgium, Canada, Australia and South Africa and can be sent to any address in the world upon request.

For further information, please contact Rabbi Ephraim Kestenbaum at:

Tel: (44) 020 8455 9476 Fax: (44) 020 8455 3212

E-mail: sula@waitrose.com