When Central- and East-European Jews came to the United States, they encountered quaint native customs. Michel Rosenberg describes how Getsl (the typical Lower East Sider) by chance attends a baseball game. Having learned that a new cantor is performing somewhere in the Bronx, Getsl gets on an uptown train and follows the crowds which he assumes are going to hear the new cantor. They are getting off at “Yankl Stadium.” Getsl takes his seat and observes  

From one hole emerges some kind of man with a blue suit and a strange yarmulke. This is certainly the choir leader. Following him comes a colleague with woolen socks, long underwear and a sweater and on the sweater is written “Yankl.” That’s my cantor! They begin praying. Suddenly I feel such a slap on my back that my right lung feels like it’s going to collapse. “Hello, buddy!” I take a look it’s the same guy with___. He gives me such a greeting with “Ata boy!” that I almost pass out. I say, “Who is the man with the long suit and the yarmulke?” He says, “That is the oompire.” I say, “And the one with the freezing hand who wears a glove/” He says, “That is the peetcher.” And immediately emerges someone with a mattress on his belly and something on his face that looks like a strainer for noodles. He says, “That is the catcher.” I say, “What does he catch other than a cold if the pitcher spits in the glove and throws the ball and there’s tossing from pitcher to catcher and catcher to pitcher. Neither one wants the ball and they stand there!” 

(Thanks to Jack Kugelmass, Jews, Sports, and the Rites of Citizenship)


Getsl’s routines are on the internet – in Yiddish. My wife, who lived on the Upper West Side among one of the largest populations of Yiddish speakers in the world, says they are all of this caliber. 

Some Jews regret the Jewish penchant for comedy. Jews use comedy to defuse a situation that a Goy would confront violently. I am not sure the Gentile way is better.

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