From Where I Sit- “Doing Jewish”

Do me a favor… stop reading this column for a moment and search online for Jews and humor and see what you find. (Go ahead… I’ll wait ☺ ).
There are many theories as to why Jews are synonymous with comedy… or, more specifically, the two are tied so closely together. In fact, there have been countless books written about this subject to better understand this connection and what led to the proliferation of Jewish history in comedy.
One of my great disappointments is that I was born in the wrong era (and lived on the wrong coast) to experience and witness the comedians that graced the Borscht Belt stages in the Catskills. You see, I love comedy. While I do like clever dialogue and comedy writing, give me an opportunity to listen to a great stand-up routine, and you will hear my distinctive laugh cutting through the crowd.
So why am I writing about what many people already accept as gospel?
This month, our Jewish Federation will hold our inaugural Ladies of Laughter Comedy Fest: Celebrating Funny Jewish Women. As far as we know, this is the only comedy festival that exclusively features and highlights Jewish women’s incredible contributions to the comedy world. And I could not be more excited.
In 2021, the Pew Research Center published the results of its Jewish Americans in 2020 study. The findings from this research were astounding and caused many in the professional Jewish world to rethink how it conducted their work to engage with today’s Jewish community. In my opinion, one of the most significant points this study illustrated is that the majority of American Jews have reshaped how they consider they are “affiliated” with their Judaism. A substantial number of people today feel their Jewish connection comes from eating Jewish food or watching a Jewish TV show or movie. In essence, “doing Jewish” is different than at any point in our collective history.
This is one of the reasons we created our Ladies of Laughter comedy festival. It is an opportunity to bring another Jewish experience to our community that, for many, is more in line with how they feel about their Judaism. And being able to add to the nationwide celebration of National Women’s Month is an added bonus.
Since I became our Jewish Federation’s Executive Director over 15 years ago, I have strived for us to create and provide opportunities that are relevant and unique in the lives of our Jewish community. I am proud that we have found something “Jewish” that many people are excited to do.
Before I began grad school, Rabbi Richard Joel, then the President of Hillel International, shared his definition of what makes something Jewish – “the fact that two Jews are doing something together, makes that activity Jewish.” In other words, Judaism is two Jews doing something together.
I hope to see you at our Ladies of Laughter Comedy Fest so we can “do Jewish” by laughing together as we celebrate funny Jewish women
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.


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