The Business of… Passover

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Passover, or Pesach, is a major Jewish holiday which takes place in or around April each year, lasting 7-8 days, depending on where you live.

Observed by the Jewish community all over the world, the impact on business can differ from country to country and between industries, with the most notable changes to working practice seen in Israel. Productive work is generally forbidden on both the first day of Pesach and the last, which are holy rest days, which means members of the Jewish community are unlikely to be conducting business on these days, even in countries where there is a non-Jewish majority.

Starting on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan (usually in April), Passover commemorates the exodus from Egypt and is one of the three pilgrimage holidays in Jewish tradition, along with Sukkot and Shavuot.

Festivities begin the evening before Passover with a Seder meal with friends and family and kosher food laws throughout the festival mean leavened and fermented grain products, known as chametz, are prohibited and will not be eaten in Jewish homes or restaurants.

What is the impact on business?

The impact of Passover on business is most dramatically seen in Israel, where it is a seven day festival which sees the majority of businesses close entirely on both the first and the last day and adjusted hours on the intermediate days, with many business only opening in the morning.

Outside of Israel it is still commonplace for traditional Jews to take leave days at the beginning and end of Passover, or work adjusted hours in order to attend Seders.

Despite only being observed with official public holidays in Israel, Passover is marked by Jewish communities within many other countries including the United States and Canada, Ethiopia and  Argentina.

As Jewish-run businesses may close for the first and last days of passover, Jewish workers within non-Jewish organisations are likely to take annual leave during this time, so there is potential for some small impact on business outside of Israel.              

There is often a boost in tourism during Passover, thanks to surrounding school holidays and the requirement to take time off work – with holiday companies offering holiday packages to destinations with kosher food that have easy access to a nearby synagogues.

Passover can also mean big business for food retailers. For example, approximately 18,000 supermarkets in the US reported stocking at least one specialist Kosher food item during the holiday.

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