Remembrances of the Old Jewish Lower East Side
By Hanna Griff-Sleven and Amy Stein-Milford
For Proust it was a madeleine. For Hanna it was a piece of matzo straight off the Streit’s conveyor belt.
This Sunday, March 29, we led our annual Passover Nosh & Stroll. We bill the tour as a journey into the kishkes of the old Jewish Lower East Side visiting places like Jarmulowsky’s Bank, the original Forward Newspaper Building and Bes Medrash Hagadol Synagogue, places that speak to the American Jewish immigrant experience. We also point out beloved food landmarks like The Pickle Guys, Economy Candy and the mural marking the former site of Schapiro’s Wine.
This year’s tour was bittersweet. Our final stop was Streit’s Matzo which will close its Lower East Side doors in April. We will miss our friends and wish them well as they move operations across the water to their factory in New Jersey. We will definitely be eating their chocolate-matzo covered matzo, fruit slices and other peysadikh goodies for years to come. But nothing will replace the sight of Streit’s employees pulling matzo off the conveyor belt and breaking them into perfect matzo squares by hand.
We found another, quite literal, sign of how much the neighborhood has changed on Delancey Street. There we discovered the old sign from Ratner’s uncovered just this week as Sleepy’s Mattress Store vacated the kosher dairy restaurant’s former site. Many of our tour-goers recalled with fondness their onion rolls and delicious blintzes.
This year’s Nosh & Stroll brought home for us how much the neighborhood has changed since we started leading the tour in 2004. We miss our old haunts. Places like Gertel’s Kosher Bakery, Kadouri’s Nuts, and the Russian Bakery on Grand Street. The tour reinforced how important the Eldridge Street Synagogue is. It is the only vibrant remaining marker of the Jewish Lower East Side that still stands and that welcomes people yearning to learn about and connect with their heritage.
For more photos from the day, please check out our Facebook album here.
What are your favorite Lower East Side landmarks and places?