At the same time bialys were disappearing in the Old World they began to flourish in the New. Polish Jews from Bialystok first brought the little breads to American shores in about 1920. The first American bialys were made, unsurprisingly, in the crowded ghetto of New York City’s Lower East Side. It was there that the first bialystoker bakeries were founded, notably Kossar Bialystoker Kuchenon, which was started by Morris Kossar and Isadore Mirsky in 1936. Of the many bialy bakeries that thrived in Manhattan from the 30’s to the 60’s, Kossar’s was always the most famous, producing some 27,000 bialys a day. Though disgruntled union bakers burned the bakery down in 1958 it was quickly rebuilt on Grand Street where it remains.
Of course New York wasn’t the only place you could get a decent bialy back in the heyday of the 1940’s and 50’s. Other cities with large Polish-Jewish populations, like my old hometown of Chicago, had bialy bakeries then. However by the 1970’s most bialy bakeries were gone, leaving Kossar’s to carry the torch for the once popular, now largely forgotten bread. What caused the demise of the bialy? Of course it was another famous Jewish bread that also begins with “b”.