View Chapters

Book: Jews

Chapter: 19. Does Jewish Humour Show Jews to be Unfit for a State of Their Own?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.36000


Jews are used to making jokes about themselves
and, as we have sought to illustrate throughout
this book, it is a central dimension of Jewish life.
There is a long tradition of humour in Judaism,
dating back to the Torah and the Midrash. The
Bible recounts how Sarah laughed when told
she would have a child, and Isaac is named for
that laughter. The Talmud is replete with witty
asides and repartees. During the medieval period,
humour was institutionalized in various customs,
perhaps most famously in Purim shpiels, comic
plays based on the book of Esther. In modern
times beginning with vaudeville and continuing
through stand-up comedy, film and television,
Jews have been known for their ability to make audiences laugh. In many cases the primary aim has been to mock Jewish stereotypes.

Chapter Contributors

  • Peter Cave ( - pcave) 'The Open University and New York University (London)'
  • Dan Cohn-Sherbok ( - dcohn-sherbok) 'University of Wales (Emeritus Professor) and Rabbi'