The Jew Laughs: A Compilation of Jewish Humor by Rabbi S. Felix Mendelsohn. 230 pp., Chicago: L. M. Stein. $2.00.
Jewish humorous tales, a component part of the Jewish folk lore, have too long been confined to a word-of-mouth basis. Though these stories are at their best in the colloquialism of speech, particularly in Yiddish or half-Yiddish idiom, there has long been a need for a permanent recording of them. In his compilation, then, Rabbi Mendelsohn has filled a void in Yiddishiana. His collection of some 400 short humorous stories may well be a forerunner of other volumes of a category similar to that which is encompassed under the heading, Americana, of which there certainly should be a Jewish branch.
Rabbi Mendelsohn, who is spiritual leader of Temple Emeth Israel of Chicago and editor of the Jewish Sentinel, Anglo-Jewish weekly of that city, has divided his book into two main sections, European and American humor. Included in his selections are many old and well known stories as well as some that are new, or at least modern reincarnations. Further divided into seventeen chapters, the tales are carefully compiled and well indexed.
It is impossible to review this sort of book other than to say that the author, so far as this reviewer is concerned, has chosen a large number of laugh provokers for his anthology. Humor, of course, is a personal matter and what may provoke hilarious laughter for one may induce only boredom in another. Generally speaking, though, the stories in “A Jew Laughs” should strike a high average with most readers.
The book is also valuable as a source of reference and we can foresee the use to which it will be put by many after-dinner speakers. If it so much as raises by one iota the standard of humor at Jewish festive boards, it will have served an extremely valuable purpose, especially for reporters who are duty-bound to listen to speeches.
â€”L. W. H.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.