Grade 7-GESHER Jewish Humor isn’t always funny!
Posted on June 8, 2016
E.B. White said,
“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog.
Few people are interested and the frog dies.”
Studying Jewish humor, our goals were to maintain interest, to learn what we could about Jewish culture, history, the idiosyncrasies of Jewish humor, and not to kill the frog too many times!
Ann Green provided an introduction to Jewish humor and shared a statistic that at one time, while Jews made up about 2% of the American population, 80% of working comedians were Jewish. She noted our tendency to be a bit pessimistic,
A Jewish optimist and a Jewish pessimist were siting around talking.
The Jewish pessimist turns to the Jewish optimist and says,
“Oy, things can’t get worse for our people.”
The Jewish optimist turns to the Jewish pessimist, smiles, and says,
“Sure it can!”
We can be self deprecating, we often laugh at our situations especially political leadership and currently much of our humor involves anachronisms—chronological inconsistencies that are funny.
We viewed (and at times tried to view) video clips of Borat, The Wonder Years, Mel Brooks and Charlton Heston (The Ten Commandments). On Yom Yerushalayim, we looked at jokes from the Six-Day War. Fiddler on the Roof provided a favorite line,
“Is there a blessing for the Czar?”
“May God bless and keep the Czar… far away from us!”
And we discussed an important life lesson, ‘correlation is not causation’ recognizing that some humor, especially Chelm stories, leverage illogical correlations.
We are very grateful to Ann Green for her time, creativity and expertise in working on this unit for us and for providing us with a beautiful insight from Rabbi Harold Kushner, “the holiness of laughter, it’s magical healing quality, its ability to change the air and to connect people who had been separate until then.”
And we are very grateful to the Gesher students for our time learning and laughing together! May you go from strength to strength!