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Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews Paperback – August 19, 1998


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Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews + Jewish Wisdom:  Ethical, Spiritual, and Historical Lessons from the Great Works and Thinkers + Jewish Literacy Revised Ed: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1ST edition (August 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688163513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688163518
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Rabbi Telushkin (An Eye for an Eye, 1991), rooted in the tradition of reverence for past learning, has gathered lots of hoary jokes and aged wisecracks, together with a few more recent japes, that make Jews laugh. To coreligionists, they'll seem like old friends; to others, the gags and their elucidation may be more in the nature of revelation. Another book of ethnic gags? Hold the cry of ``gevalt!'' because Telushkin has an unstated agenda. True to his calling, he uses the funny stuff to instruct. In this collection (in which some bits are, naturally, funnier than others), everything stands for something else--but all of it carries explanations. The exegesis of the jokes becomes a little primer on a religion and a way of life mystifying to strangers and sometimes just as puzzling to nominal adherents. It's a truism that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle applies to humor--observing and analyzing it alters it. That effect can be seen here as Telushkin trots out Jackie Mason and Sigmund Freud, as well as Leo Rosten and a host of Unknown Comics for a higher purpose. The tales of the wise rabbis, the fabled fools of Chelm, the anti-Semites, the schnorrers, and the big shots all serve to illustrate his lessons. Was the shtetl a forerunner of Catskills on Broadway? Why are comedians so often Jewish? Why are Jews so often comedians? Why ask questions? Just listen to the rabbi and his jokes. Fine, funny fare for Jew and non-Jew alike. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Joseph Telushkin is a rabbi, scholar, and the bestselling author of eighteen books, among them A Code of Jewish Ethics and Hillel. His book Jewish Literacy is the widest-selling work on the topic of Judaism. He lives with his wife, Dvorah, in New York City, and lectures regularly throughout the United States.


More About the Author

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, spiritual leader and scholar, is the acclaimed author of nine other nonfiction books, including The Book of Jewish Values, The Golden Land: The Story of Jewish Immigration to America, and Jewish Literacy, the most widely read book on Judaism of the past two decades. He is a senior associate of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, serves on the board of the Jewish Book Council, and is the rabbi of the Los Angeles-based Synagogue for the Performing Arts. He lives with his family in New York City and lectures regularly throughout the United States.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Those that can laugh with me are really my friends.
Shalom Freedman
An excellent collection of witty and wonderful Jewish humor threaded by a wonderful editing job.
Barry S. Rubin
More narrations than jokes, but great source of Jewish humor history.
Andrew Sikorski

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on November 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
In this book, we learn about the Jewish experience as expressed in humor. For example, Jews have often reacted to antisemitism by joking about it. Usually such humor includes irony, often having a punchline in which a hapless Jew gets the better of his oppressor. Sometimes, however, the humor is bitter.
Rightly or wrongly, ethnic groups are stereotyped and Jewish humor makes great use of its own stereotypes. Even the most religious Jew can poke fun at rabbis and generally, such humor is gentle and endearing. The conflict between the major branches of Judaism is fertile ground for jokes. So too, the Jewish family and all it's stereotypes e.g. the Jewish mother, is a tremendous source of humor. Even Jews who are totally non religious, such as Woody Allen, nontheless are greatly influenced by their Judaism in their humor.
This book explores the Jewish experience and then relates how this experience surfaces in humor. The book also exposes ugliness in Jewish humor such as the nasty, antisemitic "JAP" jokes that were popular, generally among non Jews. This book is not a collection of jokes, although there are plenty of jokes in this book. Rather, this is a book about what makes Jewish humor tick as illustrated by the jokes which are included as examples.
I gave the book four stars rather than five because there are extensive end notes, many of which are worth reading and I feel that they should have been integrated into the text. Instead, the reader must flip to the end of the book to reference these notes. This is somewhat annoying. Despite this criticism, I really liked the book and found it to be very enjoyable reading.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jay3fer on January 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Everybody knows about Jewish confidence: "We're smart! We're chosen! We have more Nobel prizes than we deserve! We're a light unto the nations!" Those are the things we say out loud.
But, like everybody, Jews are also insecure. Among ourselves, we ask, "Are we really smart? Why does nobody like us?" And the deeper, more difficult question, "What's going to happen to us?"
Humour has always been the Jewish way of looking at these insecurities in the fresh and optimistic light a smile can shed on any painful issue. From the days of the Talmud right on up to Adam Sandler (and hopefully *beyond* -- I'd hate to think of the "Hanukkah song" as the "end-all" of Jewish humour!), we use humour to poke away at ourselves, examining the things that make us unique and also the issues that frighten us the most. Sure, this book's honesty made me squirm a little, but as Socrates once said, "So, nu? From an examined life, you don't die."
Telushkin has masterfully grouped the best Jewish jokes into categories. His illuminations are helpful but never intrusive -- this is above all else a FUNNY book. If you're wondering what makes us tick and why the funny bone is so often the way to a Jewish heart, check out Telushkin's book and be prepared to squirm a little -- and learn a lot.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on January 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
More than just a collection of Jewish jokes, this book successfully attempts to dig into the way Jewish humor reflects the idiosyncrasies of the Jewish's mind. Behind each joke the author searches its roots, the social and historical context. Enjoyable, well presented. It helps if the reader has a Jewish background, but it is quite accessible to the open-minded "goyim." Have fun!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Nicely written book containing some of my favorite Jewish Jokes as well as the culture behind them. "Jewish Humor" has a little something for everyone and makes for nice reading when you need to take a break and smile at life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By CharmedLife on September 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the type of book that puts a smile on your face while you think about why these kind of jokes are funny. The writer makes historical/cultural comments on the jokes involved and uses such catchy chapter titles such as: "And I used to be a hunchback: assimilation and its delusions", "How did you create that hurricane: jokes on jewish business" or "God as an underacheiver". Some are old and familar but there is plenty of new material. Of course, my favorites poke fun at the Rabbis. Since the writer is one, he knows how to make me laugh. ;-)

Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a real pleasure to read. Rabbi Telushkin not only tells some wonderful jokes he analyzes them in an interesting way. In his preface he notes that Jews do not joke about everything but have a certain set of subjects from verbal aggresiveness, to professional ambition which they persistently joke about. His message in the book is that the Jews joking about themselves tell a lot about their values, and that their jokes are really a mirror to the soul. So it is not surprising that one of the main subjects if the close relation of parents and children, and the tremendous worry pressure love concern parents show for their children. Telushkin does not develop an overall theory of Jewish humor though he of course notes that laughing at oneself is often a way of protecting oneself from the insults of others. An it is too a way of bringing about a kind of group or communal solidarity. Those that can laugh with me are really my friends. The fact that Jews so specialize in laughing at themselves Telushkin points out also contributes to their having had a predominant role in ' comedy in America. He cites the long list of Jewish comedians from the old line Burns, Groucho and other Marxes , Jack Benny , through the Milton Berle, Henny Youngman Phil Silvers down to the Seinfeld Billy Chrystal generation. Anyone who leaves out Alan King Jerry Lewis Buddy Hackett should of course be castigated for this. In any case the main point about this book is ' Try it you'll like it' Once in the Subway there used to be an add which went ' You don't have to be Jewish to like Levi's ryebread' I think the same might be said about this book. You don't have to be Jewish ( though it probably helps) to get many a good laugh out of this excellent work.
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