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Laughing All The Way to Freedom: Social Functions of Jewish Humor of Modern-Day Exodus

A public lecture by Emil Draitser, Professor Emeritus, Hunter College, Russian and Slavic Studies.

Drawing on Emil Draitser’s book Taking Penguins to the Movies: Ethnic Humor in Russia, the lecture addresses the crucial social role of Jewish humor. In the absence of formal Jewish organizations in Soviet time, Jewish jokelore was instrumental in creating a virtual community. The continuous exchange of humorous bits focusing on the group’s shared predicaments helped Russian Jews to survive oppression, fight discrimination, reaffirm their Jewish identity, and strengthen the ties among fellows-in-misfortune. It also reinforced the group’s boundaries and boosted its morale, helping to overcome fears over the hardships of emigration and challenges of coming to America, where they had to start their lives anew.

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