Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jewish Humor: Visiting Tokyo

A Jewish man was in Tokyo on Shabbat, and wanted to go to a synagogue for services. He doubted that there would be a synagogue in Tokyo, but much to his surprise, the hotel concierge directed him to a synagogue not far from the hotel.

The man entered the synagogue and was surprised to see that everyone there was classically Japanese in appearance: the rabbi, the cantor and all of the congregants had typically Asian features. Their pronunciations of the Hebrew service were a bit unusual (Balukh atah... merekh ha-oram), but other than that, the service they performed was just like the one at his synagogue back home.

After the service, the man went up to the rabbi to tell him how much he enjoyed the service.

The Japanese rabbi said to him, "Thank you! Are you Jewish?" The man confirmed that he was.
The rabbi said..."Funny, you don't look Jewish."

* * * * *

This very old joke plays on the fact that everybody thinks they know what Jews look like, but Jews actually have very diverse appearances and other ethnic groups have the physical characteristics that are associated with Jews. Lauren Bacall and Paula Abdul are both 100% Jewish, but don't look anything alike, and most people don't think they look particularly Jewish. The large hooked nose that most people associate with Jews is a Mediterranean characteristic just as likely to be found in Arabs as Jews: consider Jamie Farr and Danny Thomas, who are not Jewish and get their Jewish-looking noses from their Lebanese ancestry.

Another old joke that plays with the same idea:

Two Martians meet up in New York City. Surprised to see one of his fellow Martians on Earth, one introduces himself to the other. "Hi," the first one says, "I'm 854375. What's your designation?" The other Martian says, "I'm 758689." The first Martian says, "Funny, you don't look Jewish."

This one, in addition to playing on the idea of what looks Jewish, adds a play on the notion of Jewish-sounding names: the second Martian's name ends in an "-ein" sound, like the "-stein" suffix found on many Jewish names. Like Jewish appearance, Jewish names aren't always as obvious as they seem. George M. Cohan and Avril Lavigne aren't Jewish, though their names sound very Jewish; Paula Abdul and Hank Azaria are Jewish but their names don't sound it.


Aharon Ungar said...

Just found your blog and am really enjoying it. It's true, you can't tell a Jew by his name or his nose...but, hopefully, we can tell each other by our actions!
Aharon Ungar

The Institute of Good Taste said...

I absolutely adored these jokes! Such great quality! Keep it coming!