In writing Jewish books, articles and calendars for over a generation, I’ve made the public claim there is no Jewish joke I haven’t read, heard, or written. When challenged, The IYA (International Yenta Gazette) threw down a challenge. They sent me to the prestigious Badchen Institute in the Catskill Mountains where for three intense hours, 10 comics over age 70, hit me with openings such as “There were three guys: an Italian, an Arab and a Jew walking through Central Park in a blizzard: Finish it!” I did, after which we broke for brisket, noodle pudding and a little cake we washed down with halvah.

As we were “washing down,” we all (except for one whose name I won’t mention) agreed.

Some Jewish humor is distinctive as it comes from a culture that has, for thousands of years, felt special but has been forced to suffer. From suffering comes our joys as well as our oys. The true Jewish joke reflects a unique mindset; our witty, hysterical, often irreverent view of the world and the people in it – and us.

A perfect example is one the late comedian Marty Allen read in one of my books and used in his act:

The Italian says, I'm tired and thirsty. I must have wine.
The Scotsman says, I'm tired and thirsty. I must have Scotch.
The Russian says, I'm tired and thirsty. I must have vodka.
The Jew says, I'm tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes.

Mix it up. A thirsty Scotsman worries about diabetes? Funny? Feh!

So, today I’ve chosen a sampling of my favorite jokes that reflect our Yiddish kops; jokes that could only come from us. I also added a short commentary. Enjoy! And, challenge me with your favorites!

THREE AGAINST …?

Four rabbis engaged in theological arguments, and it was always three against one. Finally, the odd rabbi out appealed to a higher authority.

“God!” he cried. “I know I am right! Please, a sign to prove it to them!” Suddenly, from a clear day, it snowed. “See? A sign!”

“No,” said one of the others. “A little snow in winter is unusual?

So again, the lone rabbi said, “Please, God, a bigger sign!” A huge icicle suddenly felled a huge tree. “Ah, now that’s a sign!”

“A sign of nature!” they insisted, again making it three to one. Just as the rabbi was about to beg an even bigger sign, the sky blackened, and a booming voice intoned: “HEEEEEEEE’S RIIIIIIIGHT!”

The rabbi, hands on hips, said, “Well?!”

The others shrugged, “OK, so now it’s three to two.”

Not only do we Jews (on occasion) disagree, we may be the only religion that both reveres God and, includes Him in our jokes.

NEVER SATISFIED

A Jewish Mother and her 4-year-old were walking along the beach when suddenly a gigantic wave rolled upon the shore, sweeping the little girl out to sea.

"Oh, God," lamented the mother, her face toward heaven. "This is my only baby. She’s the love; the joy of my life. I’ve cherished every moment with her. Please God! Bring her back to me and I'll go to synagogue every day!"

Suddenly, another gigantic wave rolled upon the beach and deposited the little girl back on the sand, safe and sound.

The mother looked up and said, "She was wearing a hat ...”

Part if the Jewish mind set is “Never Satisfied.” Good enough isn’t always enough. Hey, if God forgot to send back a hat, can a small reminder hurt?

CAN WE TALK?

Solly and Max were describing their fishing expeditions with great relish.

"Once in Florida," said Solly, "I caught a fish so huge, it took three men to shlep it in the boat!”

"That's nothing," scoffed Max. "I once caught a lamp with a date engraved on it ‑‑ 1492, when Columbus discovered America!”

“Big deal,” said Solly rising from his chair. “My fish weighed 150 pounds.”

“Yeah? Well, the lamp I caught was still lit!”

Nose to nose, they stared each other down ... until finally ...

“Listen Max,” said Solly. “How about ... we make my fish five pounds and you put your light out!”

We Jews adore exaggeration, but when enough is enough? We negotiate rather than fight? After all, who has the energy to pick up a rifle after so much brisket? The next line is probably, “Now, let’s eat!”

ALRIGHTNIKS

During a service in a wealthy synagogue, the rabbi got carried away. Falling to his knees, forehead to floor, he said, “Oh God, before thee I am nothing.”

The cantor, not to be outdone, also got down, forehead to wood, and said, “Oh God, before thee I am nothing.”

Seeing this, Levy, a tailor in the back row left his seat, walked through the aisle, fell to his knees, forehead to floor and he, too, said, “Oh God, before thee I am nothing.”

With this, the cantor elbowed the rabbi and sniffed, “Look who thinks he’s a nothing!”

We Jews have our special types: Even in shul we’ll find alrightniks – a Yiddish Americanism for “Are we bigshots or what?”

THE SCHLEMIEL

Ruthie told Mo:

"You’re a schlemiel! You always were a schlemiel, you always will be a schlemiel! You look, act and dress like a schlemiel! You’ll be a schlemiel until the day you die! And if they ran a competition for schlemiels, you’d take second place as the world’s second biggest schlemiel!"

"Why only second place?" Mo asked.

"Because you’re a schlemiel!”

From one word from our thesaurus for “fools” (schlemiel) we have a gold mine of repetition we can not only use to hock and bock, but then AH HA the victim!

THE CREW TEAM

Yeshiva University decided to create a crew team. Unfortunately, they lost every race. Each day they practiced for hours but always came in dead last. Finally, they sent Yankel to spy on the Harvard team. Yankel shlepped off to Cambridge and hid in the bushes off the Charles River from where he secretly watched the Harvard team practice. After two days, he returned, satisfied.

“I’ve figured out how they do it,” said Yankel to his eager teammates, huddling around him.

“What?” asked the others eagerly.

“They have eight fellows rowing and only one fellow screaming!”

Alright, OK. It’s a stereotype, but the mixing of white bread (them) vs. challah (us) is funny. The moral? We Jews should stay away from things we don’t know from, like moving big sticks in boats.

INDIANA JONES THEY AREN’T

Irwin and Murray celebrated selling their raincoat business by going on safari in Africa. One night in the jungle, they were frozen in their tracks by an ominous, low roar.

“Murray ...” quaked Irwin.

“I heard ...”

“Sha! ... Look behind me ... tell me what you see. A lion? A tiger? A leopard?”

“I should know?” moaned Murray. “What am I? A furrier?”

Not only should Jews stay away from unnecessary moving big sticks, but also dangerous places! More, God forbid we’re stuck, we’ll go back to what we (don’t) know.

And while we’re on the subject 

THE “COMPLEAT” WORRIER

Goldfarb, a coat manufacturer, couldn’t sleep. He was growing thin and haggard. Finally, his partner, Vogelman, suggested counting sheep.

“OK, tonight I’ll count!”

The next morning, Goldfarb looked worse.

“Nu? Did you count?” asked Vogelman.

“Did I count! All the way to 5,000 sheep. Bupkes. So, I sheared them. Still I was wide awake. So then I made up 5,000 coats — till I finally drifted!”

“So what’s the problem?”

“I awoke with a start thinking, ‘OY! where could I get 5,000 linings?!’”

We Jews have been known to worry from time to time. We’re not talking “usual” worry about children, health, business. No. We’re talking deep worry which is why we’re mavens at “what if? “and are constantly oysgematet (exhausted).

THE LESSON

David received a parrot for his Bar Mitzvah. This parrot had one bad attitude and a worse vocabulary. David tried to teach him manners, but the bird just got ruder and cruder. Desperate, David put him in the freezer to cool off. He heard squawking, then quiet. Frightened, David quickly opened the freezer.

The parrot calmly walked out and said: "I'm sorry I offended you, Master David. I shall go to synagogue, pray, and modify my behavior.” Before David could ask about this astounding change, the parrot continued, "Sir ... may I ask what the Empire chicken did?"

Believe it or not, many don’t get this one. But We Jews, with our Yiddishkeit and our brilliant imaginations can visualize the humor of the parrot, who upon seeing the “disciplined” frozen chicken, walked out in repentance. Jewish hysterical!

SO, A LITTLE MORE TSOURIS

A new flood was predicted, and nothing could prevent it. In three days, the waters would wipe out the world.

The Dalai Lama appeared on worldwide media and pleaded with humanity to follow Buddhist teachings to find nirvana in the wake of the disaster.

The pope issued a similar message, saying, “It is still not too late to repent.”

The chief rabbi of Jerusalem took a slightly different approach. “My people,” he said, we have three days to learn how to live under water.”

While not a knee‑slapper, in one joke, we’ve summed up our persistence, determination, and uncommon flexibility! To me, even more than “Don’t do unto others” this joke is at the core of our Jewish identity. Survival!

By all means if you have a favorite, post and share!