Do Jewish Jokes Have to Be about Jews to Be Funny?

Jan. 11 2017

Reviewing two recent joke anthologies, Joseph Epstein reflects on some of the idiosyncrasies of Jewish humor:

William Novak’s Die Laughing: Killer Jokes for Newly Old Folks [is] a collection of jokes about aging and about being older generally. . . . In 1981 Novak had produced, along with Moshe Waldoks, a collection called The Big Book of Jewish Humor. The jokes in Die Laughing have, perhaps out of fear of redundancy with his earlier book, been de-judaized, some to less than good effect. The punchline of the joke about the fanatical golfer who returns home late from his regular golf date because his partner and dearest friend died on the golf course early in the round is a case in point. In his explanation to his wife for his tardiness in returning home, he explains that for several holes after his friend’s death “it was hit the ball, drag Bob, hit the ball, drag Bob.” The joke is much improved if Bob is named, as in the version in which I originally heard the joke, Irving. Novak tells the joke about the parsimonious widow who, learning that the charge for newspaper obituaries is by the word, instructs the man on the obit desk to print “O’Malley is dead. Boat for sale.” The joke is better, though, in the Jewish version, as “Schwartz dead. Cadillac for sale,” and is even one word shorter, thereby saving Mrs. Schwartz a few bucks.

Of course, not only Jewish jokes are about Jews; anti-Semitic jokes are, too:

Pervasive though political correctness has become, it, like affirmative action, does not apply to the Jews or to Jewish jokes. Anti-Semitic jokes abound, not a few told by Jews. All play off Jewish stereotypes, some milder than others. The four reasons we know Jesus was Jewish, for example, are that he lived at home till he was past thirty, he went into his father’s business, he thought his mother was a virgin, and she (his mother) treated him as if he were God. Fairly harmless. But then there are the world’s four shortest books: Irish Haute Cuisine, Great Stand-Up German Comics, Famous Italian Naval Victories, and—oops!—Jewish Business Ethics.

What we need is not more anti-Semitic jokes, but more jokes about anti-Semites.

Epstein knows some good examples of these as well.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Jewish humor

How Israel Should Approach Syria in the Wake of the U.S. Airstrikes

April 27 2017

Nearly three weeks after a U.S. attack on a Syrian airbase, it remains unclear if Washington will start working actively against the Assad regime or simply enforce red lines. Ilan Goldenberg argues that in either case Israel should stick to the strategy it has been pursuing all along—one that will only be helped by greater American involvement:

The good news is that much of the area of southern Syria is now controlled by a group of moderate Sunni forces known as the Southern Front. This group is an alliance of smaller local militias that has been supported by the United States and Jordan with some quiet support from Israel. As a result, southern Syria has become one of the most stable areas in the country, resulting in a default buffer zone that protects both Israel and Jordan. The key for Israel will be to ensure that in any final resolution of the Syrian conflict or change in Trump administration policy, the Southern Front remains in place. . . .

[Another] central objective for Israel will be to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons in Syria that could get into the hands of extremists who may launch attacks on Israeli civilians. At the start of the Syria conflict this was the foremost Israeli priority. . . . The priority Israel places on this issue also explains why the Israeli minister of defense, Avigdor Liberman, came out so strongly in support of the military strikes against the Assad regime, drawing a sharp rebuke from Vladimir Putin. In most instances, Israel has tried to avoid antagonizing Russia or getting in the middle of U.S-Russian competition, but on this particular matter it is highly invested in the American position.

Finally, Israel . . . has a broader overarching objective of trying to limit Iranian influence in Syria. . . . Iranian-supported militias and operatives of the Qods Force [Iran’s elite expeditionary troops] are deeply enmeshed inside the Syrian regime at this point, and Israel likely recognizes that. Iran will continue to have influence in Syria and be able to use its allies in Damascus to supply and strengthen Hizballah. All Israel can do is push for American policies that limit Tehran’s influence in Syria to the largest extent possible, while recognizing the reality of the situation on the ground.

Read more at Matzav

More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy