A carton of matzahs cost a dollar or less, and the already-declining Jewish population of the Lower East Side still stood at a few hundred thousand when the Streit’s kosher food company opened a matzah factory in four converted tenement buildings on Rivington Street 90 years ago.
A pound of kosher-for-Passover matzah sells for $15-$18 today, the Jewish population of the neighborhood is down to about 30,000, up from the low-water mark of 18,000 two decades ago — and the Streit’s matzah factory will soon be a thing of the past.
The company’s 11 owners, descendants of founder Aron Streit, announced recently that the antiquated production facility is closing; matzah-making will resume at a yet-unnamed site in New Jersey at a yet-unnamed date.
The last kosher l’Pesach matzah probably rolled off the production line in the weeks before this year’s first seder (pending a last-minute order for the holiday item), and the last matzah for year-round use will be baked sometime after Passover.
Streit’s is the last family-owned matzah factory in the U.S.
A Streit’s baker, above, places some freshly baked matzahs on a rack, and Rabbi Mayer Kirshner, who supervises kashrut at the facility, displays some of the company’s line of matzahs.
This year, as in the past, the company made “millions of pounds” of matzahs, said co-owner Alan Adler, who declined to offer specific production figures.
The move from the Lower East Side was necessary, he said, because the old equipment has slowed down the rate of matzah production and because replacement parts are not available.
“Our men are like family,” Adler said of the site’s 50 workers, many of them immigrants who have worked there for several decades. “They understand why we had to make the move.” Streit’s has offered jobs at its new factory to its current workers, and is trying to line up jobs for those who don’t want to make the commute to New Jersey.
The company will host a farewell party on its last day on the Lower East Side, Adler said.