Postcard from... New York

 

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The last Passover matzos have rolled out of a century-old bakery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side – a neighbourhood that has been dubbed the “Jewish Plymouth Rock” but is rapidly gentrifying.

The Streit’s factory is the oldest in the nation where the flatbread essential for Jewish holidays is still churned out. About 1,130,000kg of matzos were baked for April’s Passover holiday and distributed worldwide. Streit’s is now planning to shut down its nine-decade-old ovens by the year’s end and move to a 21st-century computerised plant in New York. With it, a significant chapter of Jewish Lower East side history is closing.

The bakery first opened during the First World War, serving struggling Jewish immigrants. By 1925, the business moved to Rivington Street, where the original assembly line winds through four six-storey buildings. But the 48,000 sq ft business doesn’t live off nostalgia. It’s a smartly run family business with annual sales topping $20m (£13.5m) on about 2,270,000kg of matzos sold around the country and worldwide.

The current Streit’s production line dates back to the 1930s and the baking process is strictly timed.

It may take no more than 18 minutes from the moment the flour and water are mixed to when matzos emerge from a gas-fired, tunnel-like oven. Beyond the 18 minutes, the dough rises – forbidden for this food that symbolises the biblical flight of the Jews from Egypt, so rushed they had no time to finish baking this “bread of affliction”. AP

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