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January 18, 2014 7:40 pm
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Real Jewish Rye Ad Remembered by Transit Museum After Copy Writer Dies

avatar by Joshua Levitt

An old advertisement in Court Street subway station for Levy's Real Jewish Rye. Photo: Screenshot / NY Transit Museum.

An old advertisement in Court Street subway station for Levy's Real Jewish Rye. Photo: Screenshot / NY Transit Museum.

The New York Transit Museum remembered Jewish copy writer Judy Protas, who passed away last week aged 91, posting her iconic ad for Levy’s Real Jewish Rye, photographed in the Court Street subway station, from its archives.

In a Twitter post, the museum said, “Remember Levy’s Jewish Rye? We found this gem in our Court St. station!”

In her obituary, the New York Times published a quote from an old interview.

“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.”

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“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 ads featured very non-Jewish-looking models biting into the bread, and were posted across the New York subway lines, where they were “long part of the day-to-day texture of the city,” the Times said.

The ads were a success, and sales of Levy’s rye bread soared. The campaign was admired by many people in the public eye, including syndicated columnist Walter Winchell, who called it “the commercial with a sensayuma” (say it aloud, fast), according to the Times, and Malcolm X, who liked a version of the poster which featured a black child so much that he had himself photographed alongside it.

Judith Craner Protas was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 20, 1922. She graduated from Barnard College and then received a Masters in English literature from Yale. After graduation, she joined the advertising department at Macy’s, where she rose to become a senior fashion copywriter. She was hired by advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, in 1950, became a vice-president in 1967, and retired from DDB in the 1990s.

Levy’s ceased baking in 1979, selling its brand to Arnold Bakers, now a division of Bimbo Bakeries, which still makes Levy’s Real Jewish Rye.

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