Off the dead beat
New York Times obituary writer Margalit Fox — who is Jewish, and who just published a mystery about Sherlock Holmes’s creator, “Conan Doyle for the Defense,” in which the burly, mustachioed physician-turned-hugely-famous-and-successful writer solves a mystery to exonerate a falsely imprisoned Jew (that’s not a spoiler; you can find all that in promotional material) — announced that she was leaving that job. She’s written final stories about to more than 1,400 notable, notorious, or downright unusual people over her 14 years on the dead beat.
Ms. Fox’s written about many prominent Jews, and other Jews who perhaps were less well known than they should have been, given their accomplishments. One of them was Judy Protas, an advertising executive at Doyle Dane Bernbach, who was the writer behind the iconic advertising campaign that sold Levy’s rye bread to hungry consumers outside the Jewish world.
The best-known campaign featured a diverse group, including an African-American boy, Asian- and Native American men, and a choirboy. They all told everyone, in magazine ads, in newspaper ads, in huge subway posters, that “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish Rye.”
“Though its evocative tagline is often credited to William Bernbach, a founder of DDB, or to Phyllis Robinson, the agency’s chief copywriter, period newspaper accounts and contemporary archival sources make clear that the actual writing fell to Ms. Protas, who, working quietly and out of the limelight, set down those dozen durable words,” Ms. Fox wrote.