Streit’s Matzoh factory, one of the last vestiges of 20th century Jewish culture on the Lower East Side is packing up its factory and moving to a new location in New Jersey. It follows other great Jewish institutions in the area, Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant, Schapiro Wine Company and Schmulka Bernstein’s, which have closed their doors. Katz’ Delicatessen, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, Russ & Daughters and Economy candy are still standing.
Alan Adler, great grandson of Aron Streit who founded the matzoh factory, told the New York Times, “For the last few years, it has been clear we are the last remaining connection many Jews can relate to because their parents and grandparents came through the Lower East Side. Most of these places don’t exist anymore, and it’s very sad this one will be closing as well.”
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With the apartments in the area commanding rents of $3, 000, and with the Lower East Side attracting well-heeled and hip residents, it could be easy to blame gentrification for the move. However, Mr Adler denied that gentrification was to blame, since the family has always refused to sell for many years. The real reason is the age of the buildings andof the ovens. “We can’t find anyone to repair them.” In addition, there is no loading dock and no parking for delivery trucks, “It’s tough to do business in Manhattan.”
Streits already has a factory in New Jersey that makes its other products, such as macaroons, matzoh ball mix and other passover products. Those employed in the downtown factory are told they can keep their jobs if they are willing to move or commute to New Jersey.
With cheaper brands of matzoh imported from Israel, and more people drawn to the handmade shmurah matzoh, Streits has had competition to deal with too. However, as the ovens get older, it is harder for Streits to make the matzah at a pace that is both efficient and in keeping with the stringencies that govern the baking of matzah, so sadly, another fragment of Jewish cultural life in New York moves on.
[Trailer for the film Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream]