New York – Forget the Lottery. The biggest windfall in the country this Passover season might well be coming to an otherwise anonymous man named Glade who works at a Jewish funeral monument company in St. Louis.
Last Passover, Glade became the proud owner of tens of thousands of closets and cabinets full of bread, fancy pasta and alcohol from Jews around North America. He was the gentile who took official ownership of the leavened bread products that those Jews sold for the holiday via Chabad.org, the Web site run by the Brooklyn-based Lubavitcher branch of Hasidic Judiasm.
Jews can put all the chametz they own in a closet, cabinet or room, and assign a rabbi power of attorney over the space and its contents. The rabbi then sells the chametz to a gentile, and leases the gentile the space in which it is stored. At the end of the eight-day holiday, the rabbi buys it all back for the original owners.
Traditionally, a local rabbi would make the sale, but since Chabad started an online version of the service out of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, about a decade ago, an ever growing number of Jews– 56,843 last year– have pointed and clicked to give power of attorney over their chametz to Rabbi Yosef Landa, a Chabad rabbi in St. Louis.
“Suddenly this has become the hub for the world’s chametz sales,” Rabbi Landa said on Tuesday. “It’s an interesting thing for everybody. It’s unifying.”
Rabbi Landa’s main job is to find a gentile willing to take ownership over the virtual world’s chametz, and sell it by the morning of the first Passover Seder meal. Often, he says, he has turned to Glade.
He does not know much about Glade personally. He first said that Glade was a handyman at a synagogue, then after speaking with him, said he worked at a Jewish monument company. He told City Room that Glade was not interested in being interviewed about his role as perhaps the largest owner of Jewish chametz in the world.
But Glade’s personal status — beyond the fact that he is not a Jew and is willing to participate — is not that critical, Rabbi Landa said. The transaction itself is simple. Glade signs a document, makes a down payment of, say $50, and the chametz is legally transferred to him. After the holiday, Rabbi Landa buys the chametz back for $100. “He is very happy to have me buy it back from him, especially for the profit,” Rabbi Landa said.