Last fall, after the Passover holiday, Streit’s, the oldest family-owned matzo bakery, closed its five-floor factory on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, which it had occupied since 1925. The company itself was founded in 1916. Streit’s had staved off the onslaught of real estate developments in the neighborhood, but it finally acknowledged the need for more space and an upgraded premises. Much of the equipment – including the ovens – dated back to before the second World War, if not earlier.
Though Streti’s is no longer on the Lower East Side, a new documentary “Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream” will bring viewers inside the former factory. In addition, on April 20th and 21st, the Film Forum will host screenings and a talk with filmmaker Michael Levine with members of the Streit Family
The story of Streit’s is the quintessential New York City story – an immigrant story beginning from the era of pushcarts to today. Streit’s has about 40% of the market share for matzo, and they claim it’s the best because of New York City water (its major competitor is based in New Jersey and no longer family owned). As you can see in the video, the Lower East Side factory was still very manually operated, things sorted by hand, tasted and tested for quality. “For us it’s like art,” someone from Streit’s says in the trailer, while co-owner Aron Yagoda speaks to the challenge of running this type of business today: “This is where my grandfather was, my great grandfather was…We could probably operate with half the amount of people but it’s hard to look at those people in the face and say, “We could replace you with a machine so, it’s just nice the way it works out.”
Inside the former Streit’s factory on the Lower East Side. Photo via WESA.fm
There will be also regular screenings from April 20th to April 26th. Tickets here.