Popular Culture: Jews

Klaw & Erlanger present Otis Skinner in “Kismet,” produced and managed by Harrison Grey Fiske


Our presentation is focused on exploring the growth and change in the Jewish identity from the old country to the United States through popular culture phenomena.  We will focus on their interest in blackface and comic books and why these became Jewish dominated art forms.  Both in the Shtetl and the Lower East Side of New York City, Jews never hesitated to place themselves at the butt end of their jokes.  In the Shtetl, when they were rendered powerless and couldn’t make fun of anyone who had higher social standing, the only ones they could put down were themselves.  They were making fun of themselves before anyone else could.  This self-depricating humor travelled across the Atlantic with them and found its home in the first generation of children in America.  The street children in the Lower East Side found solace in imitating the people around them; their Jewish mothers, their Rabbis, and the merchants, all of whom allowed for the birth of Jewish stereotypes. On the next few pages, we will focus on Jewish humor and how it infiltrated and influenced their presence in entertainment.

Click to continue to Jews in New York City



Click to continue to Shtetl Humor (The Jewish Museum of Manhattan)







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