By Natalia Lehaf
Alan Adler has been eating matzo all of his life. He recalls, “when I was a kid, my grandfather said, ‘oh, here’s matzo. Eat it.’ I said, ‘ew this is horrible.’ Turns out it was from the competition’s. He wanted to see if I could taste the difference.” Adler is the great grandson of Aron Adler, the man who opened Streit’s, a matzo making factory in 1925. Since Aron, each generation of the Streit family has continued to maintain the business. “And not much has changed since then,” Adler explains. “The machines are basically still the same.”
When taking a tour of this large factory, which Adler claims to be utilized “inefficiently,” one may either be overwhelmed or comforted at the sight of old, unique machines. Modern ovens are nowhere in sight, rather large, overbearing ovens emitting a powerful heat. The floors are dusted with flour everywhere and men in hats and gloves are standing over mixing bowls testing their arm strength as they stir the dough with all of their might. This Old World traditional factory is very strict about its matzo production. Adler says rabbis are very involved in the process, making sure the recipes are according to religious rules and that the matzo is being made within a certain time period (beneath eighteen minutes).
Matzo plays an important role in the Jewish holiday of Passover. This year, Passover will be beginning on the evening of Friday, April 6 and ending on the evening of Saturday, April 14. It is an eight day holiday celebrating the Israelites freedom from slavery in Egypt. It is said that the spirit of God passed over the homes of the Israelites, saving them from chaos and allowing them to escape. There was no time for bread to be made in this hurry, which is why the holiday is celebrated with matzo. Matzo is made purely from flour and water. The water must be stilled and in Streit’s there are tanks designated for holding water overnight.
Adler says Streit’s is the first matzo making factory to produce flavored matzo. “Moonstrip,” a flavor Streit’s manufactured, is a combination of poppy and onion. Streit’s also produces chocolate covered matzo, Five Grain, whole wheat (which is only one point on Weight Watchers), gluten-free, and more. Matzo can also be enjoyed with extra condiment or added to a meal; NYU Stern student Josh Coonin says his favorite matzo meal is “matzo with butter or peanut butter and jelly – but matzo tastes delicious alone as well.”
While matzo is most popular during Passover, Streit’s produces and sells matzo on a year-round basis. Adler says they are no longer dealing with an “all Jewish market.” Many people, of all religions and ethnicities, are purchasing matzo today. As families gather to celebrate Passover and matzo-friendly meals, the Streit family’s decedents are convening to process, package, and fill the shelves in the grocery store with matzo. This image is fitting since Streit’s logo is “From our family to your’s.”