We Are All Jews, But Where’s the Party?

by Marty Roth Discussed in this essay: Feeling Jewish (a Book for Just About Anyone) by Deborah Baum. Yale University Press, 2017, 296 pages.   “Modernization . . . is about everyone becoming Jewish [and no one] is better at being Jewish than the Jews themselves.” —Yuri Slezkine, The Jewish Century DEVORAH BAUM’S Feeling Jewish is a subtle […]

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Jack Benny

Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) was born in Chicago, Illinois, on this date in 1894. His parents were immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. One of America’s favorite comedians in vaudeville, on radio and TV, and in film, Benny was married to Sadye Marks, who some say was a cousin of the Marx Brothers and who played his […]

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Roy Nathanson and Radical Jewish Culture

by Marty Roth   There is a life of tradition that is not just about conservative preservation, about the constant continuation of the spiritual and cultural goods of a community. There is also something like a treasure hunt in the tradition that establishes a living relationship with tradition and that is committed to much of […]

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Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales (Milton Supman) was born on this date in 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina. His parents were dry goods merchants (the local Ku Klux Klan, Soupy joked, bought their sheets from his folks) who nicknamed their sons ‘Hambone,’ ‘Chicken Bone’ and ‘Soup Bone.’ Milton shortened his nickname to Soupy and turned his family’s bent […]

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Allan Sherman, “Folksinger”

Song parodist Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon — he took his mother’s birth name after his parents’ divorce), was born in Chicago on this date in 1924. His 1962 debut song-parody record, My Son, the Folksinger, became the fastest-selling album until that time. Sherman’s strength was in setting silly lyrics to classical music (as in “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here […]

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Letter to Nimrod

by Dan Grossman   YOUR HIGHNESS, six months ago you rose to power on a bold pledge: to build a tower to heaven. You told crowds that it would be “big” and “beautiful” and “create a million jobs,” and when you chanted “And who will pay for the tower?” we all screamed, “Heaven!” As you […]

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Some Religious Roots of Jewish Humor

by Bennett Muraskin No matter how bad things get, you’ve got to go on living, even if it kills you. —Sholem Aleichem   THE STEREOTYPE of the funny Jew is relatively new. Traditionally, Jews were the butt of antisemitic jokes. Among themselves they made fun of the gentiles, but it was far too dangerous to take that […]

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One Young Goat

Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon (Ferenc Hoffmann), who maintained a column, “Had Gadyo” (“One Young Goat”) in Maariv for thirty years, for twenty of them on nearly a daily basis, was born in Hungary on this date in 1924. He narrowly survived in several Nazi concentration camps before escaping en route to Sobibor, after which he passed himself […]

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