The Great Knaidel Disaster by
(306 Stories)

Prompted By Customer Service

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As you may know a bowl of chicken soup without knaidelach is like a day without sunshine.

For the uninitiated let me explain that knaidelach is the German-derived Yiddish word for matzo balls,  and knaidel the singular.   And as I’ve said,  without knaidelach chicken soup is just, well,  soup.  (See The Matzo Ball Spelling Bee)

And as you can guess chicken soup with matzo balls was always on the menu at our Passover Seders.  But then one year our cousin Samantha called to tell me she was gluten sensitive and could no longer eat matzo.

I had always used Streits matzo ball mix to make my knaidelach,  and miraculously at the supermarket I found another Streits matzo ball mix marked “gluten free”  – how perfect!

But when I was back in my kitchen,  suffice it to say the gluten-free mix was a knaidel disaster,   and so there were no matzo balls for the soup at our Seder!

Despite that we had a lovely holiday gathering,  but the next day I called the Streits customer service number to complain and a recorded voice said the company was closed for the holiday and wished me a Zissen Pesach – a Sweet Passover.   So I left my number and asked for a call back when they reopened.

The following week my husband and I left for a planned trip to Paris,  and were looking forward to spending some time with our friend Jane,  an artist who had moved there a dozen years earlier.

A few nights after we arrived Jane came to meet us for dinner at our hotel.   We were having drinks in the elegant hotel dining room when my cell phone rang,

“Hello,  this is Rabbi Zeller replying to your message,”  said a slightly familiar voice,   “I’m sorry I didn’t call back sooner,  but we were closed for Passover.  How can I help you?”

Then I realized this was the voice I’d heard when I called Streits customer service about my knaidel disaster.   So, rabbi or not – with my husband,  my friend Jane,  and several Parisians at nearby tables within earshot –  I launched into my  transatlantic customer complaint.

“Firstly”  I said to set the stage,  “I want you to know my mother bought only Streits matzo,  my father especially loved your Moon Strips,  and so to this day I buy only Streits,”

”And,”  I continued,  “since I’ve been making the family Seder I’ve used Streits mix to make light,  fluffy matzo balls that practically float in the soup.  But this year I had a catastrophe!”

“What happened?”,  asked the rabbi,  possibly fearing the worst.

“Our cousin Samantha was coming to Seder,”  I said,  “and I knew she was gluten sensitive,  so I was delighted to find your gluten-free matzo ball mix in the supermarket.  And when I got home  I followed the directions,  added eggs and oil to the mix,  let it stand for 15 minutes,  rolled the batter into walnut-size balls between my wet palms,  and dropped them into boiling water.   But to my horror rather than floating,  they all dispersed leaving me with a pot of cloudy water.   And so my Seder guests had no kneidalach in their soup!”

“I can’t imagine what could have gone wrong,”  said the good rabbi,   “I’m gluten sensitive myself,  and when my wife uses that mix her matzo balls come out perfectly!   But as I’m so sorry for your trouble,  please give me your address and I’ll send you some coupons.”

And so it was over cocktails in an elegant Parisian dining room that I had a revelation  –  there are some things in heaven and on earth that even the wisest of rabbis can’t explain.

But at least he sent me coupons.

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Matzo balls, Rabbis


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Funny, amazing story, Dana. I love that the rabbi called back while you all were sitting at a cafe in Paris, no less! And, while I understand that they were closed for Passover, that isn’t very useful. It would be like the Butterball turkey hotline being closed on Thanksgiving (they are NOT). I’m glad you got your coupons, but I would have thought that Streit’s would have looked more closely into what went wrong with your matza balls too.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Oy, vey; what a tragedy, Dana! But wonderfully told story and that was indeed excellent transatlantic — and , indeed, religious — customer service.

    That said, as we all know, coupons cost nothing and usually result in added sales. So credit the rabbi for having smarts, too — which is probably redundant.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Great punchline! But did you use the coupons and did you try the gluten-free version again with success?

  4. Marian says:

    What a great story, Dana. As someone who can no longer eat matzo, I appreciate the effort you and Streits went to, but I was skeptical when I saw they offered gluten-free mix. There is a gluten-free matzo available that comes from Israel. It tastes good but it falls apart almost upon touching it (gluten is what holds baked good together), so I use it carefully and wouldn’t try matzo balls with it. At least the Rabbi tried to help you, but I am wondering what his wife did to have the matzo balls come out. Shana tova!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    What a great story, Dana. You can’t beat getting right to the top for customer service. I’ll be using Streit’s to make matzo balls tomorrow for my soup. Thankfully, I don’t need the gluten free version. Wishing you a sweet and healthy New Year!

  6. Suzy says:

    Oy vey, how much did that transatlantic call cost you? Probably more than a package of Streit’s matzo ball mix. The rabbi should have sent you a coupon for a free package, not just $1.00 off. I’m being picky, I know, and it’s very cool that he called you personally. But as Marian said, how did his wife make the gluten-free matzo balls come out perfectly? Maybe he was just giving you a line!

  7. Risa Nye says:

    Great story! My mother used to make very light and delicious matzo balls. She had a recipe that she’d memorized over the years, so my sister and I didn’t know what she did. After Mom died, we realized that using the recipe on the box gave us exactly the same results!

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