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A Jewish sense of humor

Jewish American teens' unique, shared sense of humor may lay common ground for the next generation

As my bus pulled up to my pluralistic Jewish high school on Thursday, we were greeted by a special surprise: Christmas had come to school. The tree outside of our building had been decorated, and there were gift-wrapped presents under it. And of course, there was Santa. As our bus screeched to a halt, Santa hopped on, and wished everyone a happy holiday. As the students laughed, he asked them to spread the holiday cheer. All things considered, it was a well-executed (albeit controversial) prank by the seniors.

The senior pranks are always supposed to be funny. And indeed, this prank was funny. The students were laughing and taking pictures. But why was it funny? It was funny because we all knew that it wasn’t our holiday, and it was poking fun at our Jewishness.

Similarly, any Jewish teenager who logged onto Facebook on Christmas day was greeted by a plethora of sardonic merry Christmas greetings from their Jewish friends. Many also jokingly told their friends to enjoy their Chinese food and their movies. While it may seem strange to some that so many Jewish teens bid each other merry Christmas, and joke about the traditional way that Jews spend the day, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Humor is a very popular form of communication among teenagers. We use it to poke fun at our parents, our teachers, our peers, and ourselves. In fact, Jewish teenagers very frequently make fun of their Jewishness. But that could be part of something positive.

The Christmas prank and Facebook posts are both part of a shared sense of a uniquely Jewish humor that Jewish teenagers have. This shared sense of comicality creates an unspoken mutual understanding among us. And for Jewish teenagers growing up in an age when wisecracks are so popular, humor may be that common ground for the next generation of Jews, upon which we can stand together, so that we will feel connected to our fellow Jews through a shared consciousness.


About the Author
Adin Feder is a student at the Gann Academy, a pluralistic Jewish high school in Massachusetts. He has had the opportunity to encounter a wide spectrum of Jews and their beliefs and to observe firsthand and be a part of the next generation of American Jews. He is an avid follower of Israeli politics, and studies Jewish history when he doesn’t have homework or play rehearsal