As the Streit’s matzah factory on the Lower East Side readies to close, Jews in New York City and beyond are feeling the nostalgia.
The last family-owned matzah company in the US has still not set an official closing date (latestreports indicate that the Rivington Street factory may remain open until May or early summer), but its plans remain the same: Streit’s matzah-making operations will be consolidated to a Moonachie, N.J., factory very soon.
Brooklyn-based photographer Joseph O. Holmes set out to document the Lower East Side factory as it finished up its Passover-season production in February and March. Holmes, who is represented by the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, is a veteran artist who specializes in photographing interesting workplaces, such as film projector booths and machinery stores. However, he told JTA that working in Streit’s was “overwhelming” — in a good way.
“The first time I went in with my tripod, I shot for five hours and didn’t end up using any of the original photos,” Holmes said. “It took me a while to train my eye to it.”
He described the factory’s outdated production lines, which contain equipment from the 1930s and span several floors, as a complicated “Rube Goldberg setup.”
Holmes eventually spent 10 days in the building over a span of five weeks. In the process, he got to know some of the workers (whom he described as very friendly) and did not have to use any additional lighting. The factory’s windows provided ample natural light and its scattered fluorescent light sources produced a shady, artistic effect.
Holmes’ results are an awe-inspiring tribute to the Lower East Side landmark that is on its way out.