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May 2, 2018

“You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s”

“You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye,” the unexpected ad campaign for Levy’s, a Brooklyn bakery largely catering to and popular among local Jews, was Judy Protas’ brainchild—though several others have been credited with it over the years—and an instant hit.

According to The New York Times, the Levy’s slogan was just one of Protas’ many clever creations, though it certainly is her most remembered.
“We had a local bread, real Jewish bread, that was sold widely in Brooklyn to Jewish people,” she told The New York Times in 1979. “What we wanted to do was enlarge its public acceptance. Since New York is so mixed ethnically, we decided to spread the good word that way.”
And thus, from Ms. Protas’s largely anonymous pen sprang a slogan — “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye” — that has far outlived the actual campaign, which began in 1961 and ran through the 1970s.

The Levy’s campaign, conceived by Mr. Bernbach and the art director William Taubin, featured photographs of conspicuously non-Jewish New Yorkers — a black boy, Asian and Native American men and a robed choirboy among them — blissfully contemplating a slice of the company’s rye.

The ads were aimed primarily at the metropolitan area, where, exploiting a singular New York delivery system, they appeared chiefly in the subways. Long part of the day-to-day texture of the city, they were so striking that they drew a national following and were sold individually as posters.

As a result of the ads, sales of Levy’s rye bread soared, and the campaign was admired by people as diverse as the syndicated columnist Walter Winchell, who called it “the commercial with a sensayuma” (say it aloud, fast), and Malcolm X, who liked the poster featuring the black child so much that he had himself photographed alongside it.



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