By Michelle Glozman
Comedy has been present throughout the entire history of the Jewish people, from the Torah to today, and has been a light even in the darkest times. In times where we were silenced, our humor is where we could express our identities and joke about what makes us who we are. The many different experiences people have within our culture creates a wide range of humor ranging from self-deprecating jokes, religious humor, jokes about assimilation, and even jokes about antisemitism. Although these topics are often dark and dreary, many comics find a way to bring joy to distract from the sadness.
One Torah portion that illustrates how laughter brings joy to those who hear it is Lech Lecha. The portion begins: “Sarah said, ‘G-d has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me’” (Genesis 21:6). This is significant because it talks about how laughter is key to better days. G-d gave Sarah her son in her old age after being promised long before then. She was in a state of despair until she received her son who made her laugh with joy. Isaac is named to symbolize that laughter. She spreads joy to others when she says “everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
This portion illustrates the great thing about Jewish humor, that laughter brings joy, even in times of despair. In the 19th century, Jewish humor thrived in Eastern Europe. People wrote jokes about their dreary day-to-day lives and it became a staple of coping for the Jewish people as a whole. Many Jewish comics today such as Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Ethan Klein, and Larry David joke about America’s current events and culture while relating it to their Jewishness. Other comics such as Benji Lovitt, make observations on Israeli culture and society while relating it to their Jewishness. While we may be spread around the world and separated by generations, we all relate in how we express our identities. In the modern-day, Jewish humor is ubiquitous and Jewish comics dominate the culture of comedy worldwide. It continues to evolve every day through different platforms and will continue to flourish as our cultures change.
Of course, none of us can avoid painful situations in life which upset us, but, humor gives us an outlet to invite happiness into our lives. I invite everyone to allow humor into your lives in any way you can. Whether it is with friends or family, watching TV or going to a comedy show, such as Benji Lovitt at the JCC on July 25th. This event is sure to bring a smile into each attendee’s life and will be a great way to distract from the craziness of the world. For details, click here.
Michelle Glozman is sophomore at the University at Buffalo majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Financial Analytics. Originally from Buffalo, she is involved on campus in Hillel as well as UB Aces Tennis and this summer is interning with the JCC.