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Award-winning documentary on NYC family factory screens at Cornell

By: Ayla K. Cline, 
January 24, 2017

Named “Best Documentary” at the Rockland International Jewish Film Festival in 2015, Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream is the story of the last family-owned matzo bakery in America during its final year in New York City. For five generations, the iconic Jewish institution baked matzos inside four unassuming tenement buildings on New York's Lower East Side.

This enchanting film will screen on Monday, February 13 at 7:15pm in Cornell University’s Willard Straight Theater, sponsored by Cornell Jewish Studies and Cornell Cinema. A discussion will follow with director Michael Levine and urban geographer Elissa Sampson, who was interviewed extensively for the documentary. Tickets are not required and the public is invited to attend.

 “Longtime Lower East Siders like myself will never forget the smell of matzo baking at the corner of Rivington and Suffolk—or the generous way the workers would hand a Moonstrip to passersby, as we peered in to watch the Rube Goldberg machinery do its magic,” says Jonathan Boyarin, director of Jewish studies at Cornell. “It’s great that Michael Levine captured this on film, and we’re thrilled to bring it to Ithaca.”

Levine, who has family roots on the Lower East Side, says. “I believe that, now more than ever, it is essential that this story be told, not only to preserve the history and legacy of the factory, the Streit family, and the workers there, but to draw attention to difficult choices facing family-owned businesses nationwide.” In addition to directing the film, Levine serves as the film’s cinematographer and editor.

A New York-based filmmaker and the founder of Rivington Pictures, Levine has directed, produced, filmed, and edited content for Showtime Networks, A&E Networks, The History Channel, HGTV, and a number of award winning independent filmmakers. His first feature-length documentary, “Losing Ground,” screened at the U.S. Library of Congress and numerous other venues, and was featured at length in The New York Times.

Sampson is an urban geographer, Lower East Side historian, and native New Yorker, with first-hand knowledge of the way in which shifting immigration patterns, architecture, and gentrification have shaped the Lower East Side’s identity over generations. She currently teaches the history of the Lower East Side and urban geography at Cornell.

To see a trailer or get more information on the film, please visit, jewishstudies.cornell.edu.

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