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July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
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Noah’s Ark Is Gone but Lower East Side Memories Are Kosher

Some memories are so strong that they can smell the kosher food that used to be de facto Jewish law in New York City’s Lower East Side. Play it again, Shmuel.
Photograph of the exterior of Streit’s Matzo’s Kosher bakery in New York City's Lower East Side, circa 1975.

Photograph of the exterior of Streit’s Matzo’s Kosher bakery in New York City's Lower East Side, circa 1975.
Photo Credit: Tenement Museum

For the old-timers still living on the Lower East Side, the recent closing of Noah’s Ark on Grand Street only evoked memories when Jews from throughout the New York metropolitan area would come to the East Side for the blintzes and “perogies” of Ratner’s and for the Chinese and deli items at Bernstein’s on Essex.

As the kosher restaurant scene in New York continues to grow, it is but a memory in the Lower East Side, of the days when almost every block had a kosher butcher store and where the best knishes could be consumed.

While the Lower East Side itself is far from a relic with many young professional Jews even moving into the neighborhood, it is no longer the kosher hub it was just a few decades ago. Jeremy, a business major at NYU, has roots in the Lower East Side. His mother’s parents grew up there, but he does not necessarily lament the closing of the last kosher restaurant in the immediate area. “My wife and I consider ourselves residents of Manhattan and within a subway stop or two, we have as many kosher restaurants as we want.”

It isn’t as if the East Side is totally bereft of kosher. It still has its share of pizza shops and bagel stores as well as a kosher grocery, but to the old timers it just doesn’t seem right. Said one retired typesetter: “We didn’t go out very much even when there were all those restaurants but it was nice to know that they were there.”

One iconic company remains on the lower East Side and in fact has recently released a film on its heritage there. Aaron Streit’s has been making Matzo on the Lower East Side since 1916. Even the Daily News was not able to do  a complete eulogy as it reported on the demise of Noah’s Ark. The News instead noted that with all of the new kosher restaurants opening in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “kosher is busting out!”

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