I walked into an unmarked building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I wasn’t about to buy drugs either.
I was having lunch at a friend’s home in the Jewish mecca of the United States. Crown Heights can not be compared to anything. I can tell you what it does not compare to. It’s definitely not a mini Jerusalem. It is a neighborhood with its own character mostly representing religious Jewish interests. But its also steps away from other ethnic neighborhoods like little Haiti. Like much of ethnic New York, it is a fascinating place that can instantaneously change the feel of New York.
That’s how decrepit unmarked buildings transform into Passover matzo factories months before the actual Jewish holiday begins. We entered the unleavened bread making factory armed with a baby (my friend’s to be exact). Even without the stroller we were clearly in the way of the efficient, chaotic operation.
Through the packaging center we walked. I observed a mix of teenagers, men, and woman all working in unison. What impressed me most were the clothing. I know that orthodox Jews do need to dress a certain way and it extends to the factory as well.
The packaged matzo was being shipped all over the world. Sure you can buy Manischewitz and Streit’s big operation made matzo but they don’t meet the strict kashrut regulations of an orthodox matzo making factory. Nor is the mass produced matzo as charming.
Making kosher matzo is a big deal. The idea is that if any of the matzo rises it’s not kosher to eat. The prep and cooking must be done quickly and cleanly to prevent this happening. Rolling pins are sanded after each batch to remove any dough particles. The water is set to an exact temperature and weight to ensure the exact timing. As you can see below, it’s kept in its own room in a measuring cup to adhere to the recipe.
The Eastern European women rolling the dough have a time limit. Any longer and the matzo might rise into
‘bread’. They hunch over the tables with their increasingly thick forearms to pound the dough with the freshly sanded pins.
Here’s another worker getting the batch ready for another round.
The flattened dough is transported to the next room with the oven. As an observer I was almost smashed in the head with the three meter pole.
The flattened dough goes in for thirty seconds and is quickly removed and placed onto the counter. Are you interested in walking through a matzo factory? You probably can’t. This is as close as you will get.