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December 25: The Matse Queen

Lawrence Bush
December 25, 2016
Regina Margareten, whose family built the Horowitz Brothers & Margareten Company, Orthodox matse-bakers on the Lower East Side, which she ran from her father’s death in 1923 until her own death at 96 in 1959, was born in Hungary on this date in 1863 (some sources say 1862). Margareten came to the U.S. as a new bride at the age of 20. “She is credited with the idea of combining wheat grown in three different states to ensure a superior matse,” writes Shulamith Z. Berger at the Jewish Women’s Archive, and “with the company’s expansion into making noodles and other kosher products. As one of the company’s directors, she participated in . . . decisions in areas such as advertising, marketing, and real estate. When the city took over the company’s Lower East Side location for a housing project in 1945, Margareten encouraged the purchase of a large factory in Long Island City to ensure room for growth.” Each year, as David B. Green notes in Haaretz, “Regina Horowitz Margareten took to the airwaves to give a pre-Passover radio greeting to the public, both in Yiddish and then in English, for the ‘sake of the children who may be listening in,’ as she put it one year.” “The Horowitzes and Margaretens established a family association after World War I that was instrumental in rescuing both relatives and strangers during and after the Holocaust. It continues to publish a monthly newsletter and to hold annual meetings. A family genealogy was printed in 1955 tracing the Horowitzes to 1440 and the Margaretens to 1740.” --Florence Fabricant, New York Times

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.