Jews in the News: Levi Strauss, Mayim Baylik and Julia Garner

Kidnapping; Jewish Jeans, College Jeopardy, A Clever Scammer

 “Suspicion” is an original 8-episode Apple+ series that begins streaming on Feb. 4.  It’s based on “False Flag”, an Israeli series. Uma Thurman plays a businesswoman whose son is kidnapped. If “Suspicion” follows “False Flag”, as I expect it will, several “totally ordinary” persons will be accused of being involved in the crime, and the mystery will be-- are they innocent, or just good liars?

NOAH EMMERICH, 56, has a big supporting role. You might not recognize his name, but you’ll probably know his face. He has worked steadily in TV and films since the late 1990s. He played Jim Carrey’s best friend in the film “The Truman Show” and Stan Beeman, a major character on “The Americans” TV series.

His father, ANDRE EMMERICH, was a famous art dealer. He fled Nazi Germany at age 7, with his parents, and arrived in New York in 1940. Noah’s aunt was a classmate of ANNE FRANK. Noah’s brother, TOBY EMMERICH, 58, is the CEO of Warner Bros. Pictures.

On Feb. 7, most PBS stations will premiere "The History of Jeans", a new “American Experience” documentary. Much of it is about LEVI STRAUSS (1828-1902) and tailor JACOB DAVIS (1831-1908).  Davis invented the jeans we know by putting copper rivets in them so they would stand-up to hard use. Davis bought his cloth from Strauss (who was based in San Francisco) and he asked Strauss to co-finance a patent application. Strauss agreed and they shared the patent (1873).

I imagine that the episode will mention that Strauss was Jewish. I am not sure that they will note that Davis was Jewish, too. Davis was born Jacob Youphes in Riga, Latvia in 1831. He came to America in 1854 and soon headed West. In 1869, he was living in the mining town of Virginia City, Nevada. A woman asked him to make really strong pants for her “big” husband. Davis had some copper rivets in his shop that he used to attach leather straps to horse blankets. He used them to hold the pants’ seams together and that worked beautifully!

Levi Strauss was universally viewed as an honorable businessman. His good treatment of Davis is but one example. Strauss hired Davis to be his head of manufacturing.  Davis worked for the Levi Strauss company until his death in 1908. Strauss and Davis are buried in the same San Francisco area Jewish cemetery.  

Jacob’s son, SIMON DAVIS, struck out on his own and, in 1935, founded the Ben Davis clothing company with his young adult son, BEN. The company made “tough” clothes (including jeans) for working folks. It is still very much in existence, and actually became chic in the ‘90s when hip hop musicians, including the Jewish Beastie Boys, touted Ben Davis clothes. It's still “hip” and still makes some clothes in America. Ben’s son, FRANK, 70, has been head of the company since 1995.

Here’s one detail I recently read. Today, the Napa Valley is a playground for the vintage-sipping rich. But in the late ‘30s, it was a disaster area. Prohibition (1920-33) virtually destroyed the vineyard business. Then the Great Depression (1929-39) hit the Valley hard. The Valley got a lifeline when the Davises opened a (unionized) factory in Napa in 1937. It quickly employed 10% of the Valley’s workforce.

The Levi Strauss company is, of course, also still in existence and it is still controlled by the “collateral” descendants of Levi Strauss. They are the direct descendants of Levi’s sister, FANNY STERN. (Levi never married and had no children). Notable descendants include DANIEL GOLDMAN, 45, who served as the chief Democratic counsel during the last President’s first impeachment trial.

A new evening tournament game show, “Jeopardy! National College Championship”, will premiere on Feb. 8 (ABC, 8PM). The series will be hosted by MAYIM BIALIK, 46. Bialik is also the co-host for the “regular” daily Jeopardy! Until the end of the 2021-22 season (unclear what happens then). No matter what, Bialik will host “special events” like the college championship, for the foreseeable future.

“Inventing Anna” is an original, 9-part, Netflix mini-series that will stream (whole series) on Feb. 11. It’s based on the real-life story of fraudster Anna Delvey, a non-Jewish woman who was born in Russia (1991) and grew-up in Germany. She moved to New York City in 2013. Until her arrest in 2017, she pretended to be a rich heiress and she cleverly used this façade to scam banks and friends out of about 200K.

JULIA GARNER, 27, stars as Delvey. Garner has won two best supporting actress Emmys for her work on the Netflix series “Ozark”. 


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