Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Jews Find Funny

Last spring, this cartoon was floating around Facebook:


Lots of people thought it was hilariously funny.  I was aghast.  I thought it was invented by Orthodox Jews to make Reform or Conservative Jews look like lightweights.  But then I saw lots of non-Orthodox Jews posting it too, and finding it hilariously funny.  Then I was insulted, like maybe it's supposed to show that Orthodox Jews overcharge for the same services in the name of religion (think kosher industry?).  Either way, it made me cringe.

Then, come Chanukah, this one was making its rounds:






What do you think?  Funny or no?  I have two opposite reactions:

1. Hey, that's kind of cute!  (Wouldn't mind a miracle like that, myself.)
2. That is SO corny and out of touch with what Chanukah is.  The spelling of "Hanukkah" kinda underscored #2 for me.

Then, the kicker, this one appeared:

 

I found this so annoying.  So corny.  So hackneyed.  SO eye-rollable.  I know humor is not always explicable, but what is funny about this?  To be clear, I do NOT find it offensive.  It's pretty hard to offend me (OK, bad language and insulting comments are offensive) about Judaism.  It's just that I don't see the humor.  It's the kind of thing I'd laugh at only to make someone feel good.

And btw...I NEVER find bris jokes funny.  

In fact, I'm discovering that I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to "Jewish humor."  I find most of it in poor taste, sacrilegious, corny, or just plain old unfunny.

What kind of Jewish humor do I appreciate?  Clever plays on words with Hebrew and English, especially textual.  Intra-communal jokes about Jews from various ethnicities (German Jews - "yekkies," Chasidim, Litvaks - Lithuanian Jews) that even the playing field.  Making fun of ourselves is always awesome.

I even searched the web to find a Jewish cartoon I found funny but I couldn't.  The closest I came was this:


The Shabbos Belt













It's pretty cute.

So... am I a culturally Jewish humor scrooge?  What do you find funny?  And if it's off-color, fuggeddabouddit.

138 comments:

  1. Count me in as another non-O Jew who finds the passover cleaning van hilarious.

    I read it as insulting no one, but as a "making fun of ourselves" commentary on what counts as cleaning for Passover. My mom used to put all the cereals and stuff in the back of the cabinet and cover them with a dishtowel. That IS pretty lightweight! Also it would not have occurred to me to find the cartoon insulting to O Jews regarding money. To me it feels like an intra-Jewish joke, actually a sort of expression of Jewish unity that takes ironic account of the differences.

    The cell phone miracle is cute, but not like the van. The title kind of spoils it, sort of says too much in my critic's view. The cartoonist should have set the scene in the ancient Temple, to emphasize the anachronism between cell phones and the events being celebrated. (Which O Jews might find rather more offensive.) BTW I have seen Chanukah spelled many different ways, including the spelling in the cartoon. There must be different standards for Hebrew-English transliteration out there.

    Santa cartoon is indeed totally hackneyed and eye-roll-inducing. Glad we agree.

    What makes things funny anyway? I do in all honesty ponder this a lot. Will withhold from the rant on that topic for now.

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    1. Totally agree that the title spoils it. And setting it in the Temple would be funnier. To me, "Hannukah" is an outsider's way to spell it. Glad you agree with me on Santa. Grr. Don't withhold, I'm curious. Ponder it plenty too.

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    2. I think it's a bit condescending to see a certain spelling as an "outsider's spelling". It's a transliteration, after all. I have known Orthodox people who use a "H" instead of "Ch" for the Ches or Chaf sound. (For example, I know of a Haya, and a Rahel.)

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    3. Van - totally funny. It says Jews are complicated, and I provide a service to each at their own level.

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    4. I'm used to seeing Hanukkah in academic material. I think it's the standard academic transliteration (H for chet vs. KH for chaf, and the double letter to indicate a dagesh).

      I also know a woman who spells her name Rahel because she doesn't want people pronouncing it like the English name Rachel.

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  2. A chassid, full dressed up in bekishe and streimel, is walking down the street in the rural South. A little kid comes up to him and says "Gee mister, you sure look funny!" The chassid replies "Wassamata kid - ain't you ever seen a Yankee before?"

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    1. Ok, that took me a minute! Cute.

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    2. As a Jew with Southern (Confederate) heritage, I love it!!

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  3. Ok: One reason things can be funny is that our expectations get suddenly disrupted. Physical humor can be funny for this reason, like clowns do for kids (I hate this stuff)--pies in the face, slipping on a banana peel.

    Another reason is a kind of sudden recognition of something by having it put in a new light or shown in a startling way. We laugh (or groan) at a pun because the words are totally familiar but we haven't heard them that way before. There is recognition combined with sort of newness. (This might be what is funny about the cell phone cartoon--familiar idea of Chanukah miracle of 'light lasting beyond expectation' combined with the sore-thumb element of the cell phone).

    Then there is my fav and yours, self-recognition humor. We laugh at a scene where someone goes through some very familiar but not totally miserable suffering--like a dad dealing with a moody teenage daughter--because we can identify with the dad (at least those of us with teenagers). It shows us ourselves, lets us take the distance from ourselves. The representation is both 'us' and 'not-us', so the combination of familiarity and difference makes it funny, I speculate.

    Is the cleaning van cartoon for you not funny because it re-entrenches the idea of difference between Jews? To me it seems like a funny Jewish self-recognition that there ARE differences.

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    1. Van cartoon is too close to home (painful rifts between O and non-O) to be funny for me.

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    2. The rift is painful because O and non-O do different things? But so many Jews do so many different things. Even among the Orthodox, there are no set rules for Pesach cleaning. (Kashering, yes, but even within Orthodoxy, some are stricter and some are less strict about how they kasher).

      So is it painful because there are Reform and Conservative groups that don't accept Orthodoxy, and vice versa?

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    3. Yes, because we look down on each other for exactly the things it says on the van. it's like joking around about a serious and painful family feud.

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    4. I'm not sure we all look down on each other. I don't think most Reform and Conservative even think about Orthodoxy, except on occasions when Orthodox Jews are in the news for financial or other crimes. (And I think unfortunately that's due to their obvious dress code, because other Jews also commit financial crimes and may not get as much negative attention).

      But I don't look down on any form of Judaism; why should I? My closest friends and family members are Orthodox, and while I disagree with their beliefs, they're entitled to them. When I was Orthodox (as in a believer), I did look down on R & C Jews, but now I feel the same way - they're entitled to their beliefs.

      As a young kid before I became frum, I went to a Conservative synagogue every week, and I never heard a word of negativity about either Orthodox or Reform. Really.

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    5. Not "we all," but it exists, and I'm in the line of fire, so I'm sensitive to it.

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    6. I am always a little baffled by your idea that non-O Jews look down on O Jews. In my world Os are seen as a kind of combination of an exotic thing and an odd distant relative. That's not particularly complimentary, but not all that disdainful either.

      I always thought O Jews REALLY look down on non-Os because they see us as neglecting and failing at the MOST IMPORTANT area of life.

      For non-Os in my experience there is no such dramatic failure to look down on in O Jews, even if there is a little eye-rolling at what are seen as weirdly complicated ways of doing things.

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    7. Os are seen as a kind of combination of an exotic thing and an odd distant relative.

      Yes. And I feel I have a unique set of perspectives since I have been, in order, Conservative, Orthodox, and orthoprax.

      Before I was Orthodox, I rarely, if ever, thought about Orthodox Jews, and I think that's pretty common. Probably the reverse is true, and most O Jews never think about the non-Orthodox denominations at all. Are there exceptions who think "nebech" or "all intermarried" or "all doing lewd things all the time"? I guess so, about the same amount as non-frum Jews who think frum Jews are all money launderers.

      There's not a whole lot of interaction, but that's not looking down.



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    8. So maybe the exceptions come to my attention, because I'm at the fault line. I want to believe you.

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    9. Sadly, my experience is the opposite. A woman at a Reform shul literally wept when I told her I was becoming Shomer Shabbat and told me stories of how terribly the Orthodox had emotionally abused her. And I can't count the number of casual negative comments I have heard over the years by O Jews about non-O Jews.

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    10. Ruchi, when people know each other as individuals, they tend to look past things like denominational differences. When denominations clash, it is usually at a group level. Like, an Orthodox group wants a variance to put up a large shul on a residential street, and the Reform and Conservative Jews want the street to remain residential. Or non-Orthodox Jews fear that an influx of Orthodox Jews will hurt the public schools, since Orthodox Jews don't use the public schools. Or Orthodox Jews are worried about scantily clad non-Orthodox at "community" Jewish events, or inadequate hechshers, so they don't attend.

      Often the fears are unfounded, but it's an us vs. them thing. On an individual level, people can be friends.

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    11. Wow, Larry. It just goes to show me what different experience people have.

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    12. tesyaa, again, I want to believe you, but I've heard too many stories from people that are hanging around with "us Orthodox" about comments they get from friends or family.

      SBW, the first two things you say about humor (the unexpected) are cited by Rabbi Tatz with Torah sources. :)

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    13. If you mean that baalai tshuva and potential baalai tshuva get negative comments, that's different from a generally negative comment about Orthodox Jews. People whose relatives and friends are becoming frum are reacting to the change in their loved one. A lot of people don't deal well with major changes and are much more critical of a loved one changing "affiliation" than they would be about a stranger. They don't want their loved one to change - and to possibly grow apart - so Orthodoxy becomes the target. Emotions, especially irrational ones, make things so much harder.

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    14. True, but I'm talking about pre-existing prejudices coming to the fore.

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  4. Here is an example of a joke that I think Ruchi won't find at all funny, but it illustrates the humor in self-recognition thing for me: A totally secular Jew sends his kids to Catholic school because he thinks it's the best education in the area; kid comes home one day and tells the dad that they learned about how God is composed of father, son and holy ghost. Father gets very upset and yells, "Listen to me, son, there is only ONE God . . . And we don't believe in him!"

    To me it's funny because it is absurd but plausible in my experience, and thus provides a flash of self-recognition, in particular the vehemence with which the father insists on the contradiction. And the contradiction itself is asserting the core Jewish belief (or so I learned) while also utterly denying it.

    I guess Ruchi won't find it funny because it will look just sad to her. There is no self-recognition there, no recasting of her own experience, just a scene of a father caught in a sad contradiction and alienated from Judaism. To me the element of self-recognition makes it funny, the absurdity of the vehement contradiction combined with the comfort that others also experience it (since others found it funny and passed it along, for which reason it got to me).

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    1. actually, I find that hilarious!

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    2. Why??

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    3. Man, you are messing up my theories here!! ;)

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    4. The visual of the red-faced atheist insisting that the God he doesnt believe in is one, just cracks me up. I'm not sure why.

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    5. While we are analyzing humor I wanted to mention that I changed the punchline of my chassid joke. In the version I wrote, the chassid delivers his final in a classical Brooklyn dialect, as illustrated by the word choices Wassamater, ain't never etc. As I was told the joke the chassid spoke in a strong Yiddish dialect "Nu, you've never seen a Yenkey before?"

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    6. Now this makes it much funnier! Because of the discordance between the Yiddish dialect and his self-perception as a 'Yankee'.

      But I guess I'm the only one here obsessed with WHY things are funny. And conversely, why they might be offensive, or to whom.

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    7. I'm also obsessed with why things are funny. It does have a flash of self-recognition (I know people who could almost say that) and the absurd.

      I'm only messing with your theories because you assumed I'd get offended, which you mention sometimes. Unless it trespasses my modesty or politeness boundaries, usually you're wrong. I'm not so stuffy about religious references. For example, there was a great piece going around after Steve Jobs died where he goes up to heaven and God tells Moses, "Moses, meet Steve. He's gonna upgrade your tablets." Hilarious!

      Why? Clever, unexpected use of terms, and just the look on Moses's face and Steve's are priceless.

      http://www.ijailbreak.com/news/moses-meet-steve/

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    8. Larry, wait. I thought it was funny that his name was "Yanky." Did I miss the boat?

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    9. The joke was supposed to be that the Chassid was saying that the boy thought he looked odd because the boy had never seen someone from above the Mason Dixon line, i.e., a yankee.

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    10. See, now I got that one. Sometimes it pays to not know too much. :)

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    11. Wait, did anyone like the Steve Jobs one?

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    12. I don't like the Steve Jobs one because it's corny. I don't find it funny but I see that others might.

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    13. Steve Jobs one was a mild chuckle for me, not a guffaw. Yes the drawing of the faces made it funnier than the simple pun on its own.

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    14. Being Orthodox, I've had many comments from Reform/Conservative relatives along the lines of "when are you gonna join the real world? nice ideals, but seriously? You can't just not work on the Sabbath." The comments that hit me the hardest were the ones over Kosher. That they would find ridiculous, but anyone in the family with any other dietary issues(allergies, vegan, diabetic) was okay. I felt they were looking at my lifestyle more as a joke. (I'm an ffb. it was my parents who were balei tshuva. just for perspective.) My aunt would constantly tell me I was brainwashed. It may not be widespread, but this is the general attitude I've found from the Reform/Conservative communities, whether related or not
      As for jokes, I noticed that I don't find Jewish jokes so funny. But I also notice my Non-Jewish friends judge any joke that pokes fun at their religion a little too harshly. I think everyone is a little overprotective of their religion/lifestyle choices when it comes to humor. Perhaps we're taking it a little too personally. Now I just try to relax, and enjoy the jokes for what they are. A joke. Cute, harmless, and not meant to attack anyone.

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  5. Larry's joke made me chuckle...
    Any of these Pesakh pictures do the trick?

    As far as spelling rules (or conventions) go - there aren't any. Outside of what linguists use. In general, "German" orthography is preferred (i.e Schwartz, Channuka).
    I personally don't like using "ch" since it's ambiguous. For example, the current leader of Israel's Labor party is named Yachimovich. Same letter combination is pronounced differently. And of course the cholent is chometz probably confuses a lot of people who don't already know what those are.

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    1. Oh, I love those foil pictures, I have seen them before and they always make my day.

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    2. Yes, the spellings can be totally confusing. Nah, the foil pictures don't quite do it for me :)

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    3. Ok, so enlighten me. Do O Jews really cover their furniture and tvs and blowdryers, or put them all away? I figure the photos are exaggerated, but how much?

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    4. I cover my cooktop. That's all...others cover more, but only food-related stuff (fridge shelves, etc).

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    5. SBW, the pictures are super-exaggerated, that's why they're funny. But I know Lubavitchers personally, and they cover much, much more. Not couches and lamps, but pretty much every surface in the kitchen.

      (And the straight halacha is to cover one's kitchen counters unless they are granite or stainless steel, in which case they can be "kashered" with boiling water. So a lot of people, if not most, do cover their counters, just not with foil, because it would rip. I used to use a hard or soft plastic before I had granite counters).

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    6. These pictures always make me cringe. I get the humor, but it takes me back to my first Pesach working for a Jewish non-observant boss, telling him I would be taking vacation time and him answering: "oh, so you can cover your house in aluminum foil?". His voice was full of disdain for how important the holiday was to me, the implication that I was nuts for doing all this cleaning and stuff. A sane, modern person belonged in the office, not home cleaning because of some ancient set of rules.

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    7. miriam, that must have been really painful! I'm lucky that my co-workers have been respectful of my observances.

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    8. How come I don't know about the aluminum foil? Is there some reason for that particular kind of covering, apart from the practical fact that it conducts heat so that you can cook through it as on a stovetop? But then counters wouldn't need it. Is it because foil is non-porous? (Is it non-porous?) Which would be why granite doesn't need to be covered at all? I'm totally guessing here. But flour isn't 'wet' so why would porosity matter?

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    9. Foil is just a convenient thing to cover things in, because it's not porous and it can be easily crimped to any shape.

      You need to make sure your Pesach food doesn't touch anything that might have chametz in it, because the slightest amount of chametz renders an entire dish chametz. (Whereas in regular kashrus, small amounts of forbidden items don't necessarily make food "traif"). Even counters that don't need to be covered must be cleaned thoroughly before being "kashered" with boiling water - akin to kashering silverware.

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    10. Side note: Personally, I prefer to use freezer paper to cover my counters - water resistant on one side, smooth surface on the other. I find it tears less easily than foil. Throw a beach towel on top for a counter surface that you can wash easily during all the Passover cooking.

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    11. Before we kashered our counters I just used a disposable plastic tablecloth on the counter. So not a big deal. I guess for me the foil thing makes fun of "us" (Orthodox) without equally making fun of anyone else. I like jokes that make fun of all us so no one is the butt. I guess my problem with the van joke is I wasn't sure who it was making fun of or where it was coming from. The foil thing, too, I wasn't sure if all these people sharing it actually got that it was exaggerated. (Eye-roll.)

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  6. OK, here's a quick version of one of the old chestnuts told in my house. The first time it was so-so funny, but after the millionth time the charm wears off a bit. And it's a bit dated:

    What's the difference between a Reform wedding, a Conservative wedding, and an Orthodox weddding?

    At the Reform wedding the bride is pregnant.

    At the Conservative wedding the rabbi is pregnant.

    At the Orthodox wedding, the mother of the bride is pregnant.

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    1. totally overdone, but moderately funny.

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    2. I don't like it myself, but in the seventies, it was probably quite modern.

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    3. I heard the same joke with a different punchline-
      At the Orthodox wedding, the mother of the bride is pregnant.
      At the Conservative wedding the bride is pregnant.
      At the Reform wedding the rabbi is pregnant.

      I guess it all depends on who you want to offend. I think it's funny both ways- but I feel ashamed of both, since I also find it a smidge offensive.

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    4. Maya, I think you told it right and I told it wrong. The only item that might be offensive is the pregnant bride. If a woman is a rabbi, it's not surprising that she might be pregnant.

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    5. I think it's much funnier with the O mother-of-bride coming last. That seems the most out-of-place or surprising element to me. But I also figured it was the element most likely to offend. Wouldn't O Jews be more offended by the pregnant mother-of-bride than R Jews by the pregnant bride? (Pregnant rabbi is inoffensive but not funny to me because there is no startle effect.)

      Would an O person think it is offensive to Rs to suggest that a Reform bride might be pregnant? Does the pregnant O mother-of-bride offend Os? Because that presumably refers to O Jews having more kids and starting younger?

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    6. No, SBW, it's not offensive. Orthodox Jews take pride in having lots and lots of kids. It's a status symbol. There's no greater joy for a couple than ferrying their kids around in an Econoline van for all to see.

      (I myself have a bunch of kids, but I drive a regular minivan).

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    7. OK, I'm stereotyping. But most OJs do not find the concept of having lots of kids upsetting. What constitutes "lots of kids" varies by community type.

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    8. Maya did get it right - or at least "right" the way I heard it.

      SBW, that's hilarious. The reason you think it's funnier for the Ortho to come last is because that's the most unexpected for you. For me it's funniest when the reform rabbi comes last, because for me that's the most unexpected (since Orthodox people usually think of rabbis as men).

      As far as being offensive, I have to agree with Maya and disagree with tesyaa. I think it is a tad offensive. Yes, the O person would think it offensive that the bride is pregnant. They probably wouldn't think there is anything insulting about the mother-of-bride being pregnant, unless it was said derisively by someone non-Orthodox.

      Tesyaa, to me the piece about the Econoline and the lots and lots of kids sounds a bit condescending...

      Personally, a person who is proud and grateful for having a large family might still very well feel insecure or judged when out and about with said large family or when made fun of for it.

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    9. I thought it was OK because I have a big family myself - the size family that routinely makes my co-workers' eyes pop out when I respond to the innocent question about how many kids I have. (You know, Jews can make Jewish jokes, but others can't). But I did submit a comment saying that I was stereotyping.

      I don't think mentioning the Econoline was making fun. Where I live the Econoline is just a fact of life.

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  7. One more thing. A lot of humor enjoyed among the Orthodox is totally meaningless to the non-Orthodox. Many (most?) non-Orthodox Jews have never heard of cholent.

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    1. And similarly, a lot of subject matter for non-Orthodox humor (bris, splitting of the sea) is just "duh" to the Orthodox. So the humor falls flat.

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  8. I have vaguely heard of cholent but never saw one. But even apart from that the Shabbat belt cartoon was not particularly funny to me. Maybe because there is no self-recognition in it for me, and no disruption of expectatons. A similar Thanksgiving belt wouldn't be funny to me either. There needs to be more surprise in it somehow, more startling effect.

    Isn't the 'ourselves' in 'making fun of ourselves' the decisive factor? If I see the cleaning van as making fun of how Jews are complicated, as Miriam concisely put it, and I see that "ourselves" includes me AND O Jews, then it's benignly funny. You (Ruchi) are ok with Yekkes making fun of Yekkes, but not with Yekkes making fun of Litvaks--because the latter wouldn't be laughing at 'themselves'?

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    1. Ok, so this, too, is funny. You have vaguely heard of "a cholent" - but cholent is a food like stew or chili - hope you don't mind me poking gentle humor at your cute and sweet naivete.

      Yes, definitely the ourselves making fun of ourselves is huge. Jokes that make fun of others is mean. Jokes that make fun of ourselves and others together are cute. Jokes that just make fun of ourselves are perfect because they don't even bring anyone else down.

      There is another joke about R,C and O that I am refraining from repeating here that I think is so cute, because it might be taken as offensive from me even though I make fun of "my own kind" too.

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    2. My husband - completely Orthodox - always asks "should we make a cholent"? Like, a stew.

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    3. Actually, now that you mention it, my mother-in-law says the same thing! But you wouldn't say "I never saw one" - would you?

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    4. No, I would not. Culturally it's a little off.

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    5. (so are you? making a cholent this week?)

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    6. Yes. It's only in the summer when it's a question. Otherwise, it's a given.

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  9. Being the only OJewish woman in the town we moved to, I reached out to the R women that live here. I had never known a R person in my life, to that point. I was dumbfounded when confronted by one of these fellow Jewess, when she became irate at my tznius clothes, hair covering, and asked if I had installed a water filtration syatem when living in Brooklyn, simply because the Rabbis said to do it. I had never been so attacked with venhom by a fellow Jew. Needless to say, I've never tried to be friendly with the R Jews again. Weird.

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    1. Chava, I am sorry for your experience. It makes no sense to me. Please know that not all--and in my experience, not ANY--R Jews are like this.

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    2. Please, Chava, don't judge all reform Jews by the actions of that one woman, just as all Orthodox Jews should not be judged by the actions of some we've read about here. It sounds as if she had her own issues, and there are probably (at least I pray there are) many other women just as likely to be very curious and perhaps in need of a friend who can debunk some of their misconceptions about Orthodox Judaism in general, and Orthodox women in particular.

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  10. This may require explanation afterwards but let me tell the joke first. I'll also drop a lot of the yeshivish and work some of the explanations into the text. This may make the joke less funny, but oh well.

    Moshe and David had been study partners for years. So when Moshe's son was becoming bar mitzvah, it was natural for him to invite David, and to offer him an aliyah (the honor of being called to the Torah).
    David: I'll be glad to common, but I can't take any honors.
    M: Why not?
    D: Well, I'm sorry I've never told you before, but I'm not actually Jewish."
    M: What do you mean not Jewish? We've been studying together for years!
    D: Well, yes, I was studying for conversion but I never went through with it.
    M: But you're shomer shabbos, you keep all the laws of the Sabbath. And a non-Jew is forbidden to be Shomer Shabbos.
    D: Well, I'll tell you - every Shabbos I put a key in my back pocket. That way, I'm carrying something, which is forbidden on Shabbos.
    M: But David - there's an eruv, which makes carrying permissible.
    D: That's ok - I don't hold by the eruv!

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    1. SBW: Continuing with the analysis, the joke is much less funny IMO with explanations inserted. Even I couldn't bring myself to drop the 'hold by' in the last line "I don't accept the validity of this particular eruv" is hideously unfunny.

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    2. Larry, I TOTALLY know what you mean about the "yeshivish" being so much funnier in this context. And I find this to be a great joke - it pokes fun at ourselves and has the element of the unexpected. It's really similar to the atheist joke above.

      I'm going to guess that SBW finds this joke unfunny in every aspect and possibly inscrutable.

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    3. I get it, I think. Not so funny. Or maybe I don't get it??

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    4. SBW, It's funnier as part of the culture. There are many people who live in places with an eruv but don't "hold" by it, i.e. they won't carry within it because they or their rabbi don't believe it's halachicly kosher. So if you know people who don't "hold" by an eruv, and then you hear the joke, it's hilarious.

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    5. My husband actually tells a LOT of jokes, and I could bore or entertain you with them for quite a while, which I won't do. Just one quick one about a bar mitzvah gift. A man gives a boy an umbrella for his bar mitzvah, and on the card he writes "I was going to give you a sefer for your bar mitzvah, but I wanted to give you something you would open".

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    6. Now I'm wondering, could Larry's joke be offensive to people who sincerely don't "hold" by an eruv?

      Or could it be offensive to aspiring converts who have to break a single halacha every Shabbos?

      I'm just wondering.

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    7. Side question: Some rabbi or whoever bothers putting up an eruv. They have to care quite a bit to do that, I guess. Why would anyone not consider it kosher?

      Sorry if the question is offensive!

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    8. Different rabbis, different halachic standards. The halachos of building an eruv are quite complicated.

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    9. The bar mitzvah one is funny, imo. SBW so far you've never asked an offensive question. I actually get this question a lot in Israel with mezuzahs or menorahs. Some are not kosher. So I get a lot of "why would anyone make a mezuzah or a menorah not kosher?"

      As far as being as offensive, I would say totally not to the first question. I don't know, to the second question. Maybe if they felt sensitive about it they wouldn't like the joke, like me with the van cartoon.

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    10. I did once offend you though, something about me asking whether O Jews have their own bank branches, I can't remember. But you were miffed, it was clear.

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    11. Just because I was miffed doesnt mean the question was inherently offensive...

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    12. What's the difference? Isn't the whole point that there is no such thing as 'inherently offensive' or 'inherently funny'? It is funny (or offensive) TO someone--depending on who made the joke (whether joker belong to the group), who it is about (same), whether personal buttons are pushed (highly variable), whether something is incongruous surprising (who's pregnant at the wedding), and so forth.

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    13. No. I was slightly annoyed that someone would think Orthodox ppl need their own banks, but that was unrealistic expectations on my part. Why should anyone know that? I was wrong for getting offended, not you for asking.

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  11. I'm having so much fun on this post.

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  12. this was ok
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWtsC8uYtew

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  13. Do you like mother-in-law jokes? It's also somewhat of a Jewish joke, seeing as the story comes from Nevi'im, and a lawyer joke all wrapped into one!
    Two women came before wise King Solomon, dragging between them a young man in a three-piece suit.
    "This young lawyer agreed to marry my daughter," said one.
    "No! He agreed to marry MY daughter," said the other.
    And so they haggled before the King until he called for silence.
    "Bring me my biggest sword," said Solomon, "and I shall hew the young attorney in half. Each of you shall receive a half."
    "Sounds good to me," said the first lady.
    But the other woman said, "Oh Sire, do not spill innocent blood! Let the other woman's daughter marry him."
    The wise king did not hesitate a moment. "The attorney must marry the first lady's daughter," he proclaimed.
    "But she was willing to hew him in two!" exclaimed the king's court.
    "Indeed," said wise King Solomon. "That shows she is the TRUE mother-in-law."

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    1. Mother-in-law jokes bother me because the implication is that you can't have a good relationship with your in-laws. But plenty of people do, and I hate to see the worst relationships portrayed as the inevitable norm. I think it's bad for future in-law relationships if people go into them assuming they'll be bad because of the stereotype.

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    2. Notwithstanding what DG said, which I agree with, that is FUNNY.

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  14. I find ethnic jokes very unfunny and offensive, although sometimes chassidic/yekke jokes are funny. Orthodox-Conservative-Reform jokes can also be very funny if they poke fun at the groups without insulting them. I find self-deprecating Jewish jokes (including Jewish mother jokes) offensive (actually, I find self-deprecating jokes by other groups offensive, too).

    I love plays on words. Poking fun at euphemisms -- at the Orthodox reluctance to say certain things directly -- can also be extremely funny. And jokes about taking things to extremes can be funny, although I guess people have different ideas of what's extreme.

    I don't find any of the cartoons above funny, and I don't even understand the first one. I guess because I've always identified very deeply as Jewish (and not just in contrast to the non-Jews around me), the Santa cartoon doesn't do anything for me. OK, so Santa got lost. So?

    And then of course there are the jokes that have nothing to do with Judaism. I see funny cartoons all the time (again, often plays on words) that could appeal just as easily to someone who has never heard of Jews.

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    1. I don't find Jewish mother jokes funny at all. No self-recognition there and it smells like self-hating Jewish humor.

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    2. But I have one that's not offensive. The Jewish mother who gave all her sons the same first name: "My Seymour, My Morris, and My Irving".

      Not too offensive, right? Shows a mother's love for her kids. If you take it as a smothering mom, you could read in something offensive if you try hard enough, but as a throwaway line, I think it's cute.

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  15. Replies
    1. Larry and MP:

      Parts of this are REALLY funny. The last joke is a shame. Not sure why people think they have to come on to potty humor to be funny. Does he succeed in being funny to those that aren't "in the know"?

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    2. The last joke is the funniest part for the people I know who have watched this. The rest is lame. It's not potty humor- that's very different. This is funny because you really don't expect a black hatted guy to be talking about a thong. It's out of place and amusing. Potty humor is about farts and belches, a favorite staple of 10 year old boys.

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    3. Possibly I missed a lot because I'm not 'in the know', but I found the video hilarious, not at all lame. So beautifully deadpan. For me the thong joke didn't live up to the rest. The beautiful part was how he managed to be 'in character', and the thong joke killed that. It felt like stooping below his otherwise perfect dryness.

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    4. Usually I find stand up comedy so, so lame. It's like "here I am. I'm trying to be funny. Please find me funny." So how could anything meet that expectation? With this guy, I found myself smiling despite that. Till the end.

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    5. Me too, but for me part of it was him standing there in that outfit. Not that the outfit is funny, but somehow a very O Jew dressed like that--as his everyday dress--on a comedy stage was funny in itself. The incongruity there---O hat and all, on a club stage. Did that strike you as funny or was that just me as an outsider?

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  16. This very topic (well, the general topic) is something I ponder a lot-- what "is" funny? What do we find funny and why? Why do some people find a joke funny whereas others are highly offended? I find both the van cartoon and the Santa cartoon funny, and I'm not sure exactly why- I do think parsing out or articulating in great detail why something is funny sort of takes the funny out of it, though. The Dad talking about the Chanukah miracle, however-- I just find that kind of sad, because it tells me that the kids are so secularized they can't understand the true miracle... to get them to relate to it, the Dad has to tell them "in their language" and that distance from the emes (truth) of Torah just hits too close to home. I think there are so many things that affect what we find funny- our own personal "too close to home" is created by our experiences and beliefs that change over time.

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    1. I totally agree. I've never had someone "explain" a joke, then have the listener laugh. This was actually a great motivation for me to learn Yiddish as an adult - because my grandparents and parents would crack up at a well-turned Yiddish phrase and when I'd ask what's funny, they'd explain, then say, "It sounds better in Yiddish."

      Try that with any language you want your kids to learn. It works.

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  17. You definitely must have background knowledge to understand a joke. And I realized that the hard way: since I've started reading a few O blogs on the internet I've learned quite a lot, without really noticing it myself. Kochava from the Crazy Convert blog once quoted a joke: "Why are premarital relations forbidden? Because they could lead to mixed dancing". I found it funny and repeated it to a completely secular Jewish friend, who didn't understand what it was all about...

    Here's my Jewish grandma's favorite joke (it's really sad actually, which is probably why she was so attached to this one)

    Moshe talks to his wife Sarah.
    "Sarah, were you with me during the Kiev pogrom in 1905?"
    "Of course Moshe, we were already married by then."
    "And Sarah, were we also together in the Kiev pogrom of 1919?"
    "Of course Moshe, as your wife I was always by your side!"
    "Sarah, and were you with me in the Lodz ghetto?"
    "Naturally, Moshe, I've always been with you! Why do you keep asking?"
    "I've been thinking: Sarah, I think you bring me bad luck."

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    Replies
    1. This is funny when it's delivered right. In writing it misses some of its punch. The funny part is in the unexpected ending, and the sad/typically Jewish self-recognition in the travails of our history.

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  18. It just struck me that the Shabbos belt might be amusing because there is such a thing as a Shabbos belt, but not the one depicted. (For SBW's benefit, a Shabbos belt is an item constructed so that one may "carry" a key in a place with no eruv. One's house key is used to secure the belt, so it is serving a purpose, and is therefore not being "carried").

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I didn't know that. It does make it funnier. But then all the food references are sort of overkill. I like understatement in jokes.

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    2. That didn't occur to me. Maybe because I "hold by" the eruv.

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    3. The fact that there is such thing as a shabbos belt does make it funnier. News to me.

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  19. New Yorker cartoon from several years back. Drawing of three men side by side, with the figures beneath the headings "Orthodox," "Conservative," and "Reform" going from left to right (we could parse that right there, couldn't we...)

    Orthodox guy: black hat, bushy beard, payos, long jacket, visible tzitzit.

    Conservative guy: kippah, trimmed beard, business suit.

    Reform guy: Santa suit with a big sack over his shoulder.

    I'm Reform and I find that hilarious. Not sure if I can put my finger on quite why that is, though. The subtext is certainly that we Rs are so assimilated that we're effectively not Jewish any more, but I don't see that there's necessarily any disdain toward Rs being expressed by the artist. One could certainly interpret it that way, but it's also perfectly plausible that it's meant to be an ironic reflection on how Rs think Os see them. Every joke that exists contains something to which someone could take offense if they squint hard enough.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. From your description I thought the idea would be that Santa Claus IS Reform.

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    2. Hey, welcome back.

      So I can't figure the joke out. What does it mean and why is it funny? Is it exclusively making fun of R Jews? If so, why wouldn't you mind?

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    3. Not speaking for Bratschegirl, I see it as making fun of R Jews but that doesn't offend me. We were Reform growing up (although now I think 'affiliated Reform' would be the proper term) and hung stockings for Santa. "Jews for Santa"--now that could offend a lot of people. But among some secular and some R Jews it's how it is.

      If a joke makes fun of someone for something that is true (and the Santa thing is true in my experience), and it is done gently or as part of the 'we' (like Tesyaa's Econoline reference--which I found deadpan-funny because it is apparently true) I think it can easily be funny. As with the cleaning van, it says they are all Jews. But I can imagine Rebbetzinrocks would be offended. And to O Jews I can see how it might look offensive because it points out what is seen as the worst possible failure of R/secular Jews.

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    4. To me the Reform Santa seems offensive to the Reform because although, yes, I know, there are Reform Jews who celebrate Christmas, that's definitely not Reform ideology. My guess (although I'm no expert on the subject) is that it's very much opposed to Reform ideology. Reform Jews are often simply people who like the Reform temple, regardless of whether they agree with the ideology.

      If I saw the Conservative guy, on the other hand, I would assume he was Orthodox because Conservative Jews don't usually wear kippot (except in religious settings). Lots of Orthodox Jews have a kippah, trimmed beard, and business suit.

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  20. Ok, this is a true story, and more ethnic than Jewish per se, but I'll share it anyway. Ruchi can skip it if it is too far off topic.

    When my now-wife first met my parents, they were wintering in Florida. They were staying in a housing complex where 3 or 4 relatives from their generation lived year round, and another half dozen or so were down either for the winter or were visiting while we were there.

    After the first night of listening to my relatives reminisce, she said to me "Larry, your relatives all sound just like Fran Drescher on the Nanny. I thought she was exaggerating her accent for comic effect." I looked at her in bewilderment and said "Fran Drescher has an accent?"

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  21. Very funny!

    For the record, I have never watched that show but I've seen ads, so I know the accent. I think you Os are watching more TV than you let on . . .

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    Replies
    1. Ftr I've never watched it either, but picked up the joke from context. But plenty of O Jews have/watch TV.

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    2. I was wondering if you'd put a disclaimer :) FTR I watched it (as an adult) in its original run.

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  22. is there something wrong with me that I see all 3 as funny? especially the cleaning truck -it would be even better if the prices kept going up, as per chumras. The way some people go overboard cleaning for pesach imo deserves a few laughs! and we should never take ourselves too seriously to be hurt by some innocent fun. re: the different spellings of 'chanuka' -I think ruchi herself had a post on it a long while back. they're all equally valid, as they're only a transliteration from a foreign language.

    (and yes, I do basically plaster my own kitchen with foil during pesach, including the walls adjacent to the counters!)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Out of left field: What do O Jews do on Sunday? Do kids have school? Or is it like Shabbos without the religious obligations?

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    Replies
    1. It's nothing like Shabbos. In many places, boys have school (Hebrew subjects only), because Sunday is a "weekday" and time shouldn't be taken away from learning Torah. Girls rarely if ever have school, and in more modern communities, neither boys nor girls have school.

      Sunday is often the day for running errands and doing chores that "other people" do on Saturday, especially if both parents work.

      Also, it's a day for family outings, visiting relatives, etc, the same kind of things "other people" do on Saturday.

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    2. Exactly like Tesyaa said -- Sunday is all about errands, household chores, hobbies/clubs/sports, not to mention birthday parties and shopping. Always busy. Luckily we have Shabbat to rest up for Sunday, which is the start of another hectic week.

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    3. Ditto that. Cleveland is somewhat different in that 2 of the 3 Ortho schools have school on Sun (1/2 day) for both boys and girls. But Friday is a shorter day as well.

      We run Sunday school in the am, then afternoons are very full with the kids.

      Not much time for blogging on Sunday as you can tell. Sure do love me my Mondays.

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    4. I'm wondering what religious obligations you had in mind. There are religious obligations every day, not just on Shabbat. Prayers are longer on Shabbat, meals are obligatory, but really, most people like to eat meals anyway. There's no obligation to have long meals on Shabbat. People tend to take naps on Shabbat afternoon, but again, not obligatory.

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    5. I meant going to services. I figured the service is several hours. And the religious obligation NOT to do a lot of things obviously wouldn't hold for Sunday. But now that you mention it, I might be thinking in Reform terms, where (from what I remember) the whole shebang is squeezed into Saturday. O must be different.

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    6. Just think about squeezing everything you do on a weekend into one day, and you have Sunday, for an Orthodox family.

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  24. Here's my other favorite.

    3 shuls in the same town all simultaneously discovered they had squirrels in their attics, and each community got together to decide in their customary way how to deal with the issue.

    The Orthodox decided it was G-d's will that the squirrels had taken up residence with them, so they left them alone.

    The Conservatives held a meeting and decided, in keeping with their commitment to social and other kinds of justice, to trap the squirrels humanely and release them in a lovely park outside of town. They did this, but a few days later the squirrels had all come back.

    The Reform decided to vote the squirrels in as members of the congregation. Now they only show up on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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    Replies
    1. I vote funny!

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    2. Made me chuckle!

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  25. yeah, the way I heard that one, it was a priest an imam and a rabbi with their different methods to get rid of the mice. The punchline is the Rabbi who says "I gave the mice a bar mitzvah and they never showed up again"

    There's a Jewish comedian Marc Wiener, he's also a comedy writer for TV and BT orthodox Jew. He came to our small very mixed community where the audience was really mixed, everything from very yeshivish orthodox to very secular and he had everyone in stiches. And it was all clean. I thought that was really impressive.

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    1. I saw Mark Weiner perform about 12 years ago. He was great. He made some great observations about kiddush behavior (that's about all I remember).

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