If you can’t find what you need on the shelves of your local store, go ahead and blame supply chain issues, increased demand and inflation. Jewish businesses are not immune, and the safrus industry has been particularly hard-hit in recent months.
“Since the onset of the coronavirus, we have sadly seen an excess in deaths in our community,” said Rabbi Tzvi Pincus of Tiferes Stam Judaica in Flatbush. “Many of those families have donated sifrei Torah in memory of their loved ones. And because there have been so many extra deaths, the demand for sifrei Torah is way more than average.” Rabbi Pincus pointed to the 45 sifrei Torah ordered in memory of the Meron tragedy victims as particularly increasing demand.
Whereas in the past donating sifrei Torah was only done by a select few, it has today become standard practice, especially in cases of tragedies. This has created the basis for the larger demand, which the recent crises wildly exacerbated.
Though Rabbi Pincus is among the leading sefer Torah sellers in the United States, he has recently had difficulties procuring all kinds of safrus items. “Many sofrim with whom I have worked for years have stopped working on mezuzahs and are focusing entirely on sifrei Torah,” he explained. “Those are more lucrative anyway, but especially now with the higher demand, even those sofrim who didn’t want to write sifrei Torah in the past have now caved.”
The result is a severe shortage of sofrim producing mezuzahs. Because of the lack of sofrim and the general low supply of raw materials, prices for mehudar mezuzahs have jumped.
“They now run for up to $150,” said Rabbi Pincus. “If you are looking for only one mezuzah, it’s doable for the average family, but many people need ten or more. That would cost more than $1,000. People are desperate. Many now have to rely on mezuzahs from inexperienced sofrim, and even those cost around $50 each now.”