Tradition Thrives in the Lower East Side

By Sarah Yang

A worker oversees the production of matzo for Passover

Among old tenement houses and historic buildings in the Lower East Side, family-owned matzo manufacturer, Streit’s keeps the tradition going on Rivington Street. Although many Jewish businesses have abandoned the neighborhood, Streit’s has remained in the same tenement building where Aaron Streit started the company in 1925.

“Being located on the Lower East Side has a history not only to the family personally but most Jews in America who came through Ellis Island, who would initially be living in the Lower East Side. This was a very strong Jewish community in the early 1900s,” said Alan Adler, co-owner of Streit’s and the great-grandson of Aaron Streit.

The business produces approximately 2000 pounds of matzo an hour with its two convection ovens. About 60 percent of Streit’s sales come from Passover and the rest come from daily sales, which has expanded to other kosher products like matzo ball soup mix and potato pancake mix. Streit’s has distributors in Canada, Mexico and across the United States.

During Passover season, special attention is paid to the production of Passover matzo. Rabbis observe the baking process and the machines are cleaned regularly to abide by Jewish law.

Adler has also seen a rise in non-Jewish customers throughout the years, especially with the introduction of new flavors of matzo like sundried tomato or poppy seed. The company has been able to withstand the recession because of the versatility of its product.

“We did very well in the Great Depression, my mother told me that sales were up because matzo was cheaper than bread and lasted for a very long time. We found the same thing in the Great Recession that we’re finally coming out of now. Sales did not decline at all,” said Adler.

For Adler, who was a lawyer for 20 years before going into the family business, being a part of tradition is important. Having played in the halls of the factory as a child and seeing his father and grandfather work in the same building, he saw taking over the business as an honor.

“My grandfather worked here, my father worked here, there’s more to it than just a job. Our customers have been loyal to us over the years, they’re used to the pink box on their Seder table. So there’s a lot of pride and emotion tied up with making the matzo,” said Adler.

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