Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jewish Humor: Reuben Kushner, the Jewish Robinson Crusoe

This is the story of Reuben Kushner, the Jewish Robinson Crusoe. He was stranded on an uncharted island for ten years before he was finally rescued.

When his rescuers arrived, they were amazed at what they found. Kushner had built himself only a small, humble home in the trees, but next to it was a magnificent building. "That is my synagogue," Kushner explained. He proceeded to give them the grand tour, pointing out with pride the ornately carved pews, bimah, podium and ark, the kiddush cup, menorah and candleholders, the ner tamid, everything a synagogue could want, all made with his own hands.

As Kushner and his rescuers left his synagogue, the rescuers spotted another, different but equally ornate building next to it. "What is that?" one of the rescuers asked.

"That?" Kushner spat with contempt..."That's the other synagogue. I wouldn't be caught dead in that!"

* * * * *

It is a sad but too often true tale of Jewish culture, I'm afraid. If we didn't have a synagogue across the street that was stricter or more lenient or just plain different, then we would certainly have to build one that we could hold in contempt, as Reuben Kushner did.

Jews are often our own worst enemies. In fact, the idea of an international Jewish conspiracy running the world is simply absurd because it is impossible to get two Jews to agree on anything, let alone how to run the world. The plethora of political parties in Israel should give you some idea of how fractured the Jewish community is. In his magnificent (but sadly out-of-print) book, Growing Up Jewish, Rabbi Jack Moline said it best: anyone who is stricter than you is a fanatic; anyone who is more lenient than you is a heretic.

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