The third instalment in The Television Project exhibition series, You Don’t Have to Be Jewish, explores advertising produced for Jewish audiences or with Jewish content, and examines the way religion, ethnicity, and identity play out on American television.
Television commercials have been fertile ground for aesthetic invention, with sponsors and advertising agencies turning to modern art and graphic design for ideas. The “new advertising” revolution of the 1950s and 1960s brought innovative elements into the ad format, often characterised by humour, candor and irony. This resulted in one of the medium’s most creative periods in the United States. Commercials were also often on the front line of identity politics as well, targeting (and celebrating) various racial and ethnic demographic markets well before TV programming.
Culled from the over 4,000 holdings of the Jewish Museum’s National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting, this focused exhibition features a compilation of commercials and related clips, paired with print advertising campaigns, works of art, and related ephemera. A number of the commercials employ humour to attract a wide customer base, Jewish and non-Jewish, and remain iconic examples of campaigns that are still referenced today, including 1960s commercials for Manischewitz wine and a well-known ad for Hebrew National beef frankfurters featuring Uncle Sam. The exhibition will also feature art and artefacts from the collection of the Jewish Museum relating to advertising and consumer culture, from a photorealistic painting by artist Audrey Flack depicting a selection of pre-packaged foods including three boxes with the Manischewitz label, to the well-known “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy’s” rye bread print ad.
The Television Project was originated by Maurice Berger. You Don’t Have to Be Jewish was organised by Jaron Gandelman.
The National Jewish Archive of Broadcasting (NJAB) is the largest and most comprehensive body of broadcast materials on twentieth-century Jewish culture in the United States. The Jewish Museum established the archive in 1981 to collect, preserve, and exhibit television and radio programs related to the Jewish experience. The collection comprises more than four thousand radio and television recordings, dating from the 1930s to the early 2000s.