Jewish Genes

February 26, 2008

German speaking Jews have shaped our reality like maybe no other group in the world: Marx, Freud and Einstein taught the world about social justice, the unconscious and relativity. Their ideas changed the world, but too often people forget about the man who revolutionized the way most of us dress. Löb Strauß, better known as Levi Strauss, would have turned 179 today.

Levi Strauss was born on February 26, 1829 to Hirsch Strauss and Rebecca Haas Strauss, both Jewish. His name at birth was Löb, but when he immigrated to the U.S., it was changed to Levi. He was born in Buttenheim in Bavaria, Germany. Young Levi sailed from Bremerhaven to New York where his two older brothers, Jonas and Louis, had already established a successful wholesale textile and tailoring business. After a stay of two days in New York, he continued on to the ranch of his uncle, Daniel Goldman in Louisville, Kentucky. There he spent the next five years learning the language in order that he might someday take over his uncle’s ranch. But Levi had dreams of becoming an independent businessman, and for several years he walked the roads of Kentucky, selling cloth and notions from the pack on his back. In 1847, Strauss, his mother and two sisters moved to New York City to join his brothers Jonas and Louis Löb in their dry goods business. By 1850 he had adopted the name “Levi Strauss.”

The Web site of the Levi Strauss Museum in Buttenheim, which in 2002 received the European Museum of the Year Award, doesn’t mention the fact that he was Jewish. Neither does the biography on the official Levi Strauss company Web site. We read, however, that he “was active in the business and cultural life of San Francisco, and actively supported the Jewish community. He also helped to found Temple Emanu-El, the city’s first synagogue.”

Happy Birthday, Löb!

One comment

  1. German genes all the way…how about the cohen genes…

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