Amid Holocaust fatigue and farce, Otto Frank’s letters pack a punch.
Special To The Jewish Week
Last week, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research revealed nearly 80 documents showing that Otto Frank, the father of the world’s most famous diarist, Anne Frank, attempted in 1941 to emigrate his entire family from Holland to America.
Ruth Wisse has taught a course on Jewish humor at Harvard for years, but you might not know it given her most recent work. “Jews and Power,” published by Nextbook/Schocken in 2007, was a very serious book.
It argued that throughout history Jews have often blamed themselves for problems not of their own making. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 C.E., Wisse detected a pattern in Jewish history in which Jews aligned themselves with ideas that ran counter to their own interests in the hope that it might save them.
Thirty years ago, when we were finishing up “The Big Book of Jewish Humor,” a few older comedians were still doing what comedians had always done. They told jokes — by which we mean funny little stories of indeterminate authorship — about a man and an elephant walking into a bar, for example, or a rabbi, a priest and a minister on a train.
Lenny Bruce cursed a blue streak. Don Rickles insulted anyone within hearing distance. Sacha Baron Cohen has raised embarrassment of the unsuspected — Jews and non-Jews alike — into an art form. And for Sarah Silverman, not even the memory of the Holocaust is sacred.
For Jewish comics, Dom Imus is no joke.
In the wake of the shock jock’s unflattering comments about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team and his shockingly swift departure from the national airwaves has come a national discussion about the propriety of character defamation in the guise of humor, and predictions that an era of increased civility will ensue.
Do you know about “siddur finger”?
It’s an obscure medical condition. Jews get it in synagogue, during the Torah reading on Shabbat, when they leave a finger in their prayer book to keep their place for a half hour or longer, and the end of the finger gets painfully squeezed.
If you haven’t heard about siddur finger, and you’re connected to the Internet, you’ll hear about it in the coming weeks on “The Mendy Report.”