Stuart Schoffman has traced the lineage of his favorite Jewish joke to a compilation, The Book of Jokes and Wit, put together in 1922 by Alter Druyanov, a Russian Jew who collected thousands of such jokes and translated them into Hebrew. Although Schoffman doesn’t find many of the jokes funny, a few hold up, including his favorite:
A question was put to Alexander Moszkowski the mumar [a Jew who converted to another religion]: “You, who are both a goy and a Jew, maybe you know the difference between them?” Answered Moszkowski: “Of course I know. When a Gentile is thirsty, he takes three drinks one after the other; when a Jew is thirsty, he checks his blood sugar.”
A meme, a trope, too often a fact of life in Druyanov’s world. The Gentile as violent drunkard, the Jew as hypochondriac, expecting the worst.
Schoffman then connects this old joke to a modern version that you might have heard.
The Englishman says, “I am tired and thirsty; I must have tea.”
The Frenchman says, “I am tired and thirsty; I must have wine.”
The German says, “I am tired and thirsty; I must have beer.”
And the Jew says, “I am tired and thirsty; I must have diabetes.”