"Just call me Adonai": A case study of ethnic humor and immigrant assimilation

Limor Shifman*, Elihu Katz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This article describes a case study of humor created in the course of immigrant assimilation, specifically regarding the jokes (n = 150) told by Eastern European old-timers at the expense of well-bred German Jews (Yekkes) who migrated to Palestine/Israel beginning in the mid-1930s. A taxonomy divides the corpus into jokes lampooning rigidity, exaggerated deference to authority, difliculty in language acquisition, and alienation from the new society. The jokes carry a dual message of welcome to our egalitarian nation, but please note that we, and our norms, were here first. The ethnic superiority implicit in the latter part of the message turns the tables on two earlier encounters - in Germany and the United States - in which Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland were denigrated for "embarrassing" their relatively well-established German brethren. The Yekke jokes analyzed in this article arose from a third encounter in Palestine/Israel, where, this time, the Eastern Europeans arrived earlier, as Zionist pioneers. The jokes, it is argued, constitute a kind of "revenge".

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)843-859
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


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