19. Does Jewish Humour Show Jews to be Unfit for a State of Their Own?
Jews - Nearly Everything You Wanted to Know* *But Were Too Afraid to Ask - Peter Cave
Peter Cave [+]
The Open University and New York University (London)
Peter is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, sits on the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and is Patron of Humanists UK and of Population Matters. He has published many papers, light and serious. His books include This Sentence is False: an introduction to philosophical paradoxes and three ‘beginner’s guides’: Humanism; Philosophy; and Ethics. His most recent work is The Big Think Book: Discover Philosophy Through 99 Perplexities. He has written and presented philosophy programmes for BBC radio, and often takes part in public debates.
Peter lives in Soho, central London, enjoys opera, lieder and chamber music (well, he thinks he knows what he likes), even delights in religious music, despite his atheism — and is irritated by builders’ drillings, pointless burglar alarms and unnecessary thuds of music in cafes, restaurants and shops. He is often to be found with a glass of wine — or two.
Dan Cohn-Sherbok [+]
University of Wales (Emeritus Professor) and Rabbi
Dan is the author and editor of a number of books dealing with Israel including Israel: The History of an Idea; The Palestine-Israeli Conflict (with Dawoud El-Alami); Debating Israel and Palestine (with Mary Grey); The Politics of Apocalypse: The History and Influence of Christian Zionism; Introduction to Zionism and Israel: From Ideology to History; The Palestinian State: A Jewish Justification. He has also published several books of cartoons.
Dan lives in Kensington (and Wales) with his wife Lavinia and his Burmese cat. He is frequently to be found drawing cartoons in his London club.
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.