Marketing Kosher: Manischewitz, African American Consumers, and Jewish Identity, 1940-1980

Roger Horowitz

Sammy Davis Jr. crooning “Man o’ Manischewitz” on television advertisements may seem no more than a peculiar remnant of the 1960s; but it also speaks to a complex and troubled moment of cultural transmission between the African American and Jewish communities. Manischewitz, the quintessential kosher wine of mid-century America, relied for its profits on a consumer base that was overwhelmingly African American. By the 1970s, however, Manischewitz became, in the eyes of upwardly mobile Jews, a poor person’s swill unfit for those with a taste for good wine. This talk will chart this troubled relationship between the wine and its consumers, and explain further that Manischewitz’s absence from the alleged recent success of kosher food owes much to the problem of a kosher wine’s success depending consumers.