by Kathleen Hunter
As the sun rises over the East River and spills out onto the crooked sidewalks of Rivington Street, the employees of Streit’s Matza Factory are already working in preparation from Passover. A truck ambles outside, waiting to be emptied of its flour and sent on its way. It’s 9am and as New York City is just waking up, Streit’s Matzo Factory has been up for several hours.
As one explores the almost century year old factory, they are soaked in old New York and tradition. Watching the mixers blend a simple recipe of flour and water and a man breaking the crackers into almost-squares, not much has changed in the factory since it opened in 1925. Not much will either. The Streit family has just come up with a five-year plan for staying on Rivington Street.
When speaking with Alan Adler, great-grandson of the founder of Streit’s. Aron Streit, he often mentions the inefficiency of their current factory, which was one of the most modern factories at the time of its installation. Streit’s recently considered moving to a modern factory in New Jersey. In the plans, they had for a new factory, the flour would come in on one end and the process of baking matza would flow from there: mixing, baking, packing, and, finally, shipping. However, as Adler points out, “You can try to modernize and try to improve things to eliminate problems but it usually cause just as many problems on the other end.”
With Passover right around the corner, the factory is working furiously to meet demand. During Passover, nothing leaven is eaten for eight days. Two men and a rabbi supervise the rising, or lack there of, of the matza. Streit’s only bakes their matza for fifteen minutes to ensure minimal rising. Despite preparations beginning in October, they work well into February for the holiday. “Our competition is probably already into daily matza. They probably stopped Passover production a month ago or something. So, we’re kind of the only game in town if matza sales are up and it’s too late to import from Israel and it’s too late for our competition to make it,” Adler says.
New York City won’t be losing a slice of its past any time soon. The reason? Nostalgia over profit. Alder says, “There’s a history to it and we put up with the inefficiencies because of it.”