The traditional Passover Seder meal became more expensive for the 70 percent of US Jews who, according to the Pew Research Center, participate in the annual ritual. Rising meat prices and a shortage of whitefish used to make the traditional gefilte fish eaten by Jews on Shabbat and holidays have conspired to make this year’s celebration more costly than usual.
Gefilte fish, Yiddish for stuffed fish, is made primarily from ground whitefish. In the United States, whitefish is typically caught in the Great Lakes.
This year, however, the catch was much smaller due to icy conditions.
According to The Weather Channel, a US-based weather- forecast television service and website, over 90% of the Great Lakes are covered in ice, a situation it described as the “greatest” ice cover in 35 years.
Wholesalers and shopkeepers interviewed by the Chicago Tribune noted a decrease in available gefilte fish, with only around 10-20% of the normal catch making its way to diners’ tables.
While the idea of a gefilte fish shortage may seem trivial to some, the sale of the traditional Ashkenazi delicacy means big money for retailers and is considered by many an integral part of the holiday celebration.
Beef prices rose as well, reaching a 30-year high, according to Meat & Poultry, an industry journal.
Despite the high prices, however, American Jews attended Seders in high numbers.
According to a report issued last year by the Pew Research Center, 70% of Jewish Americans attended Seders last year, including 42% of so-called “Jews of no religion” who are statistically less likely to engage in Jewish rituals, affiliate with a Jewish community or raise their children as Jews.
According to Michael Lipka of Pew’s Religion & Public Life Project, “participation in a Seder is more common among Jewish Americans than any of the other practices we asked about, including fasting for all or part of Yom Kippur (53%) – often considered the holiest day of the Jewish calendar – and always or usually lighting Sabbath candles (23%).”
Over 90% of the respondents who said they were married to a Jewish spouse said they took part in a Seder, while only 54% of the respondents who said they were married to non-Jews said they attended the traditional meal. The highest rate of participation came from those over the age of 65, with three-quarters of that age group going to a Seder. The lowest participation rate was among those aged 30-49, at 65%.
The majority of Jewish youngsters, 73%, attended a Seder last year.