Tag Archives: Temple Emanu-El

Jews of the Week: Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis

Inventors of Your Favourite Pants

Jacob Davis

Jakobs Jufess (1831-1908) was born in Riga, Latvia. He became a tailor before immigrating to the US at age 23. Upon arriving in New York, he changed his name to Jacob Davis and opened up a tailor shop. Over the next 15 years, he moved all across North America trying to make a living, spending time in Maine, California, Nevada, and British Columbia, working as a tobacco salesman, gold miner, and brewer. By 1869, Davis settled in Reno, Nevada and opened another tailor shop. His primary merchandise was originally tents, horse blankets, and wagon covers. To make his stuff stronger and more durable, he started using the toughest cotton denim he could find, which happened to come from a small dry goods store in San Francisco called Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi Strauss, the name behind Levi’s jeans.

Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was born in Buttenheim, Germany. When he was 18 years old, his family immigrated to the US, joining two older brothers that had settled in New York some years earlier. The brothers had set up a dry goods shop, and Levi went on to open a new store location in Louisville, Kentucky. During the California Gold Rush, the family saw opportunity in the West and opened another branch in San Francisco. Strauss headed that branch (together with his sister’s brother, David Stern), importing from his brothers in the East and selling high-quality merchandise at his Levi Strauss & Co. shop. He became very wealthy, and built San Francisco’s first synagogue, Temple Emanu-El. Strauss gave generously to many charities, too, and his Levi Strauss Foundation donated to multiple orphanages and universities (including UC Berkeley). In 1871, Strauss received an offer from Jacob Davis to go into business together. Davis had designed a new type of work pants using blue denim and copper rivets to make the material extra strong. The first set of such “jeans” was custom-tailored for a lumberjack. Before long, everyone wanted a pair, and Davis couldn’t keep up with demand. Strauss helped Davis get the proper patents, and the two partnered up. To make his jeans distinct, Davis soon started to sew the back pockets with the now-ubiquitous orange double-stitch. Meanwhile, Strauss built a large jeans factory in San Francisco and Davis moved there to run the plant. Davis worked at the plant for the rest of his life, outfitting every miner, railroad worker, and cowboy with “Levi’s jeans”, his special pants. The modern jeans that Davis and Strauss brought to the world grew rapidly in popularity, first in the workforce, then among teenagers and “greasers” in the 50s and 60s, and today being the most popular type of pants in the world.

Coronavirus and the Coming of Mashiach

Words of the Week

Few are guilty; all are responsible.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Jew of the Week: Samuel Ullman

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Samuel Ullman (Photo Credit: likesuccess.com)

Shmuel Ullman (1840-1924) was born in Hechingen, Germany. Due to persecutions of Jews in the region, his family fled to the US in 1850, settling in Mississippi. Ullman spent much of his youth working in his father’s butcher shop. The Civil War broke out when Ullman was just 21, and as a citizen of Mississippi, the young man served in the Confederate Army. Following the war, Ullman got married and started a dry goods business. He became active in his town’s political and religious life, often devoting his time to the needs of the community. He then moved to Alabama and started a new hardware business. Together with his wife, they founded a hospital for the needy. Ullman also served on the Board of Education, was a key civil rights activist, and fought tirelessly to bring equal education for African-American children. His efforts led to the first free public school for blacks. At the same time, he served as the president and unofficial rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham. When he finally retired, Ullman devoted his time to writing. The most famous of his essays and poems is titled “Youth”. It was the favourite poem of American General and World War II hero Douglas MacArthur, who credited the poem with getting him through the horrors of the war. MacArthur had it framed and hanging in his Tokyo office, and introduced the poem (and its poet) to the Japanese. Many Japanese, too, were given hope by those words, ultimately making Ullman one of the most popular poets in Japan – even moreso than in America! It was the same poem that inspired Konosuki Matsushita to start a business despite his advanced age, giving birth to Panasonic. Kim Dae Jung often quoted the poem in his successful campaign to become President of South Korea, as did Robert F. Kennedy, and countless other noted figures around the world. Seventy years after Ullman’s passing, his home was turned into a museum by the University of Alabama and the Japan-America Society.

Words of the Week

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind…
… Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals…
… Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…
– Verses from Samuel Ullman’s “Youth”