Suzanne Fields

Her name was never a household word, but she got more than 20 minutes of behind-the-scenes fame in many households with a popular advertisement for a Jewish rye bread that won a multi-cultural audience before anyone had ever heard the word. In the age of "Mad Men," when advertisements inevitably featured the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant and the bread was always white and sliced, she created an iconic advertising slogan: "You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy's Real Jewish Rye." Anyone riding a Manhattan subway in the 1960s looked for the ads with portraits of New Yorkers who were not Jews: an American Indian in braids, a robed choirboy, a black child, a Japanese boy, an Irish cop, an Italian grandmother and Buster Keaton, an aging star from the silent movies. Malcolm X, an unrepentant anti-Semite, liked the poster with the black child so much he had himself photographed with it. Jewish rye became endearingly wry.

"What we wanted to do was enlarge its public acceptance," the copywriter told The New York Times in 1979. She enlarged the acceptance of Jews, too. As the columnist Walter Winchell told his audience of radio listeners and newspaper readers, it was a commercial with a "sensayuma" (say it loud quickly).

The deaths of Ariel Sharon in Israel and Judy Protas in New York call attention to the polarities of experience for Jews, those who live in the Promised Land and those who have scattered across the globe. The largest number lives in North America. Israelis have always worried about the assimilation of Jews who live outside their country, and now the government plans to invest billions of dollars over the next two decades to bolster the Jewish identity of Diaspora Jews.

They're considering a Jewish peace corps, Hebrew language courses in cities with a large Jewish population. They want to encourage Jews to marry Jews. "If you get more Jewish young people together, and they marry each other and marry earlier, we begin to address a problem," says Steven Cohen, a sociologist who studies the effects of the Diaspora, tells The Jerusalem Post. The outreach would encourage Jewish engagement with Israeli issues on college campuses.

Jews in America are concerned that naive professors are becoming more aggressive in their hostility to Israel, singling out the Israelis as an easy target, when China, Cuba and Russia, among others, are the greater offenders of the civil rights of others. Those offenses are largely ignored. They want them to love a Jewish rye made in Israel, too.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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