Why Jews Shouldn’t Tell Jewish Jokes

Question: Is it okay for a Jews to tell a Jewish joke?

Abraham Foxman: In Jewish tradition words are very \r\nimportant.  We even Jews will pray three times a day, ask the \r\nAlmighty... ask for his help or her help to keep, "God please help keep \r\nmy mouth from speaking evil." 

It’s in our tradition the power of life \r\nand death is in the tongue.  And the gas chambers in Auschwitz, the \r\ncrematorium in Auschwitz didn’t begin with bricks they began with words;\r\n ugly words, hateful words.  These words were met with absence.  Nobody \r\nchallenged them, nobody questioned them, and then became bricks. 9-11 \r\ndidn’t start with box cutters or flying planes as missiles, it started \r\nwith words denigrating Americans, demeaning Americans, our values, and \r\neverything else.  The reason slavery persisted so long, the reason that \r\nthere were lynching’s, was that words; words demeaned African-Americans \r\nas not persons, not human.

So if you can use words in a way to demean \r\nand undermine their humanity, then it eventually doesn’t matter what \r\nyou do because they’re not human.  And it starts with jokes, it starts \r\nwith separating as a group, the other.  We see it with bullying and \r\ncyber-bullying.  It all starts with a joke and it builds.  So, yeah, \r\nlook I’ve had my differences with "Borat," with Sacha Cohen, I’m old \r\nenough to have my differences with All in the Family.  You’re too young \r\nto remember, but this was an approach which said let’s make fun of \r\nbigotry; let’s laugh at bigotry.  And I argued with Leonard Goldenson \r\nand this was the first show on television which poked fun at bigotry and\r\n you’d say can we laugh and make jokes?  And the producer’s claim was if\r\n you laugh at it you get it out of your system.  And the truth is that \r\nArchie Bunker became a hero.  People were laughing with him, not at \r\nhim.  All the other characters were made simple and idiotic, and when \r\nSacha Cohen did "Borat" he defended it as this is the way to expose \r\nbigotry, is to laugh at it.  But I don’t think that the people, when he \r\ndid his skit about throwing the Jews down the well, and the people were \r\napplauding, I didn’t think it was funny.  I think they were reinforcing \r\nit.  My little test that I still offer that to Sacha Cohen, and he said \r\nto me, "You got to learn to take a joke."  I said you know what, I will.  \r\nWhy don’t you do a public service announcement for the Anti-Defamation \r\nLeague which says prejudice is not funny, and then you can make your \r\nmovies prejudiced.

Recorded on June 11, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Sacha Baron Cohen as "Borat" wasn't funny, says Foxman. Neither was Archie Bunker in "All in the Family."

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