The canonization and censorship of the modern Jewish joke: in Alter Druyanow’s Book of Jokes and Witticisms

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The article discusses Alter Druyanow’s popular work: The Book of Jokes and Witticisms (Sefer habediha vehahiddud, Frankfurt, 1922) as a turning point in the development of modern Jewish humour. The acceptance of the book is ascribed mainly to its Zionist agenda expressed not only in the formation of its repertoire, but also in the censorship of a large collection of sexual jokes. Following a discussion of Druyanow’s main motives and anthologizing principals, the article includes a first exposure of these jokes, aiming to analyse their social roles. The comparative reading of the jokes in their historical and cultural contexts points at what the Jewish society of that time considered as its “other”–from competing religious groups to other threatening reference groups within this society, such as women and assimilated Jews. In this way, the censored jokes shed light not only on the marginality of the East European Jews and their feelings of inferiority but also on their creative response to them and their ideological horizons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-137
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Early Zionism
  • Jewish joke
  • canonization
  • compilation and anthologizing
  • ethnography
  • humour
  • modern Hebrew literature
  • sexual folklore

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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