The schtick of time

From National Post:

Germany-theatre-wwii-history-the_producers-hitlerIn the last decades of communist power, Jews in the Soviet Union discovered that they had achieved a previously unimaginable advantage over Gentiles. Jews could get out of Russia and Gentiles couldn’t. Moscow, under pressure from the US, had agreed to give a limited number of Jews exit visas to Israel. Many non-Jews also wanted to leave and imagined escaping by claiming to be Jews. Some discovered that they had always felt Jewish and began advertising for Jewish grandmothers. For centuries Jews in Czarist Russia had been banned from many of the empire’s regions. Thousands were killed in pogroms that the government supported. After the 1917 revolution their religion was suppressed and the word JEW was printed on internal passports, their identity cards. Now Russian Gentiles were pretending to be Jews! It was an astounding reversal of fortune. Naturally, this situation cried out for Jewish comment. Sure enough, someone came up with the perfect joke: Certain resourceful Georgians (the story goes) forge passports that will prove them Jewish and win them visas. Alas, the authorities discover the scam. Their punishment? They aren’t jailed or killed but they must retain their Jewish identity forever. Both stories, the facts and the comic legend, appear in a richly absorbing new book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press), by one of the most interesting scholars Canada has produced, Ruth R. Wisse.

…Irony is central to Jewish humour and Wisse suggests that if irony were an Olympic event, Jews would bring home the gold.

More here.