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Humor Conference No Laughing Matter

The Third International Conference on Jewish Humor will be held at Tel Aviv University here next week — but the participants will not be telling jokes or talking about the Palestinian uprising, the main topic of conversation in Israel these days.

Noting that politics remains the focus of any conversation in Israel, Avner Ziv, a psychology professor at the university, said that “there is life outside of politics. In fact, one of the original things about the conference is that there will not be one word about the intifada.”

Sam Girgus, of the University of Oregon, will be lecturing on “Philip Roth and Woody Allen: Freudian Poetics and the Humor of the Oppressed,” while Paulo Santarcangell of Italy’s University of Turin will talk about “Fundamental Features of Jewish Humor in Time and Space.”

Ziv pointed out that when the Jews started leaving Eastern Europe, the “schlemiels” (fools) went to America and the “chutzpaniks” (gutsy ones) went to Israel.

The fools continued to invent and trade Jewish jokes in the “goldena medina,” while the hard-headed idealists put their chutzpah to work clawing out the Jewish state.

But in the process, they became so serious, they lost one of the best Jewish traits — humor.

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