The Origins of Modern Jewish Humor (Essential Lectures in Jewish History)


This is a more-or-less scholarly discussion of the origins of modern Jewish history in Enlightenment Europe. Warning: there are a few jokes in this video, but they only start around the 15 minute mark. The rest is more theoretical and historical. Part of the Essential Lectures in Jewish History series, more available at


Here are a few of Dr. Abramson’s recent publications. He’s not very¬†funny in print (but taller).

kof cover DMA_Fotor

rambam front cover

The Sea of Talmud


4 thoughts on “The Origins of Modern Jewish Humor (Essential Lectures in Jewish History)

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  1. I knew this was going to be good when I saw the title. I especially liked the Jewish grandmother. I’ll be chuckling over that all day! I must say however that you missed expanding on what has the potential to be an excellent joke. I’m no humorist, but I’d really like to see what would develop if you mentioned to someone like Robin Williams that there was a coin worth half a goat. I really did LOL when you said that. Thanks for brightening my day. :))

  2. I never realized that humor has such an interesting origin in history. It seems emancipation brought about a tremendous amount of change within Jewish life; it was also mentioned along with the Haskalah movement. It is sad that Jewish humor has to be self-deprecating, and even sadder that it leads to Jews feeling self-hatred.
    -Yocheved Homnick

  3. It’s fascinating how a Jewish joke is really only funny when applied to Jewish people. You brought out some interesting points about the origins and reasons for Jewish humor. While jokes are obviously funny, self deprecating humor often gives the world more of a reason to find fault with the Jews. While the original reasons of self deprecating jokes were to ease the hatred, I fear that it actually gives the world a reason to rear the ugly head of antisemitism. Jews should continue to joke and make light of everything, but should be aware that going too far could spark unwanted hatred.

  4. Interesting. My grandfather says a lot of jokes so it was fascinating to find out what the origins humour are.

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