Jewish Humor

“Jewish humor” is a problematic notion. On the one hand, since the absorption of Jews into modern Western culture, the notion of a distinct Jewish humor has enjoyed broad currency. However, Jewish history has spanned three millennia, often borrowing from the majority culture. Meanwhile, Jews have consistently drawn on a textual heritage, rich in humor, stretching back to the Bible. Much of this humor used by Jews has come to be regarded as Jewish humor, contributing to a Jewish sense of cultural continuity. Distinctive structural and thematic traits of cultural significance can objectively be identified.

This entry addresses the major themes, forms, and functions of Jewish humor, using a cultural and an ethnographic lens—with attention to continuities and local contexts and to how such humor has ...

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