Documentary Production and Distribution News
In an era dominated by large corporations and the decline of American manufacturing, a new film, Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream, being funded through Kickstarter, seeks to tell the story of a thriving fifth generation family manufacturing business, dedicated to maintaining their traditions and the jobs of their workers.
The documentary, directed by Michael Levine, looks at the company’s unique history and examines the causes for their continued success in a modern American economy despite a production facility and values that recall an earlier era.
“It’s easy to dismiss the ‘American dream’ as an outdated concept, but so much of what appeals about the Streit’s story is that it’s a place caught in time, and yet continues to be profitable,” says Michael Levine. “This documentary has the ability to have a positive impact - to tell the story of a business that has steadfastly refused to leave or modernize in ways that could cost their workers’ jobs.”
The Streit’s Matzo factory has been producing matzo, the unleavened bread eaten as part of the Jewish tradition of Passover, in the same four, low-slung tenement buildings on New York City’s Lower East Side since 1925. Now a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, when the factory opened the Lower East Side was the epicenter of Jewish immigration in the United States. As time passed, the Jewish population largely left the neighborhood, and manufacturing facilities around the nation began to re-locate, first to the edges of cities, and then overseas. Even the humble business of making matzo was subject to the rise of corporate consolidation, as another company, Manischewitz, came to buy out most of the independent matzo bakeries in the U.S. by the early 1980s, leaving Streit’s as their sole U.S. competitor.
Today the Streit’s family and their 40 or so factory workers – many of whom are second or third-generation employees themselves - produce 40% of the nation’s matzo, using machinery that is as old as the factory itself. Asked why the family is so steadfast in their resolve to remain in the neighborhood, using admittedly antiquated equipment, Streit’s co-owner Aron Yagoda replies, “We’re not going to get anything like this anywhere we go. So, you give up some efficiency, some economy of scale, but we keep everybody employed. We could probably operate with half the amount of people, but it’s hard to look at those people in the face and say, ‘I’m sorry, we could replace you with a machine.'”
Levine and the film’s producer, Michael Green, have raised over $18,500 to complete Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream through crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, and contributions continue to mount.
“We live in a time where the concept of the American family business seems almost lost to the past,” says Levine. “The story of Streit’s is a glimmer of hope, and I think people need that hope.”