Sunday, 19 January 2014

Jew Jokes

There is of course a kind of Jew Joke that is told by non-Jews to other non-Jews, and that ranges from the mildly offensive to the deeply offensive. You will I hope be relieved to read that that is not what I’m writing about.

I mean the kind of Jewish, mainly Yiddish, joke that is told by Jews to other Jews, and is nearly always self-mocking; Yiddish culture has a capacity for self-mockery that is, or ought to be, the envy of other cultures. My favourite such joke is one I have known for years, but I was reminded of it by its being told again in a review in the latest (well, the latest to reach me) issue of the Times Literary Supplement.

Stalin gets a telegram from Trotsky (who was a Jew.) Stalin is pleased, as the telegram reads ‘Dear Comrade, I was wrong; you were right: I should apologise.’ Stalin shows the telegram to his secretary (who happens to be a Jew.) The secretary — a brave man, as befits someone working with Stalin — says ‘I’m sorry, comrade, but you have misunderstood. Actually the telegram reads ‘Dear Comrade, I was wrong? You were right? I should apologise?’

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