SHOLEM ALEICHEM at his desk in St. Petersburg in 1904.
(photo credit: YIVO ARCHIVES)
Explaining his perennial predilection for satire, Sholem Aleichem once wrote, “What shall I do when laughing is a kind of illness for me, God save us, from childhood on?” For centuries, stretching back to the Bible, humor has been a distinctive characteristic of Jews. As recently as 2013, a Pew Research Center found that 42% of respondents declared that “having a good sense of humor” was “part of being Jewish in America today,” far more than those who singled out “being part of a Jewish community” or “observing Jewish law.”
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