Passover at the Lustgarten Butcher Shop
March 27, 2013

This week marks the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach. To celebrate, we’re remembering the Lustgarten family, who ran a kosher butcher store at 97 Orchard Street more than a century ago. 

If you’ve experienced our Shop Life tour, you know that Israel and Goldie Lustgarten and  ran a kosher butcher shop at 97 Orchard Street from 1889 to 1902. At the same time, they raised a family of six children (five pictured here), who often helped out in the store. Notice how all—even 5 year-old William—are wearing aprons. Israel and Goldie provided kosher meat, which many of the East European Jews required.

To keep kosher, one can only eat meat from certain animals, and they have to be slaughtered and blessed by trained and certified specialists. In addition to the kosher rules for everyday meals, the Passover holiday presents another set of more stringent dietary standards.

Lustgarten Family c 1887

The Lustgarten family dressed for work, c.1887

During Passover, Judaism prohibits the eating of chametz, a category of food that includes anything made with wheat, oats, rye, barley or spelt. Matzoh (also spelled matzah), the traditional unleavened crisp bread, is the exception to this rule.

New Yorkers with Matzoh

Free matzoh for Passover distributed to needy families in New York City, c.1908

Meat, however, is very much a traditional part of the Passover celebration. Families enjoy beef, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or fish during the holiday.

During the preparations for this holiday, the Lustgartens’ store would be brimming over with customers waiting in line to purchase meat for their families with market baskets and young children in tow. While they waited, shoppers would have traded pleasantries and gossip, in Yiddish and English.

These days, the Lower East Side has lost its kosher butcher shops, but New Yorkers who keep kosher have new options, too–kosher meat can even be ordered online (but you’ll have to go elsewhere for the gossip).

Posted by Kira Garcia and the Museum’s Education Staff