The informant is my film partner (referred to as MR) who has a Jewish mother and was raised Jewish. His mother belongs to a congregation and tries to instill Jewish values on her children who have all had Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. He told me this joke and claimed his mother always told him it was a Jewish joke:
MR: “A grandmother is giving directions to her grandson who is an adult and is coming to visit her.
‘First, you need to come to the front door of the apartment,’ she says,
‘I’m in apartment 201. There’s a big panel at the front, so press number 201 with your elbow and I’ll buzz you in. Come inside the elevator and with your elbow, press the 2nd-floor button.’ She tells him, ‘When you get off, my door is there. Hit my doorbell with your elbow and I’ll let you in. OK?’[
Her grandson says, ‘Ok Grandma, but why am I hitting these buttons with my elbow?’
She says back ‘What…. you’re coming empty handed?!”
CI: Why do you think that your mother insists this is a Jewish joke?
MR: “I think is very Jewish. The grandmother character seems to be pretty common in all Jewish families, and I definitely relate that to my own family. My mother always says, ‘In a Jewish family, you never show up empty-handed. You just don’t.’”
This is particularly interesting to me because while I have never heard this joke it seems to be very Italian as well. Growing up with very Italian grandparents, they would always come with their hands full and bags of food and things no one was expecting. The very involved and giving, grandmother is a common archetype in Italian families as well. The grandmother is a strong figure in a lot of cultures, but this particular story of the Jewish grandmother is the most similar to the Italian grandmother. I think this also shows Jewish hospitality/ views on gifts.