Tag Archives: jewish

The Legend of the Golem

Context :

JH is 23 years old and from San Francisco, CA. They are a USC graduate I met a few months ago. They are a practicing Jew and heard a lot of Jewish legends growing up from their family.

Text :

“There is a pretty Jewish legend that I was always told. The legend of the Golem, which I’m probably going to butcher and my rabbi will be mad about it. It’s basically that this person made this man out of clay in order to protect his town… I think it was the rabbi who made the man out of clay. He wrote a word onto his head, I forget the word. But he was this six or seven foot tall man made of clay that was supposed to protect the town but ended up terrorizing it. He’s still in the attic of the actual place he was made, the clay man.”

Analysis :

Legends are interesting to analyze because they balance between the lines of real vs not real, and they can possibly be true. With the story of the golem, it remains a legend because although the clay man is still supposedly in the attic, it can’t necessarily be proven. People come from all over the world to see the attic, the way people would go out searching for bigfoot or the lochness monster. Originally, the golem was created to protect his people, but ended up terrorizing them. This bares similarity to the story of Frankenstein, which isn’t necessarily a legend. I’m unsure what the message of the golem is or if there even is a message since my informant didn’t fully remember the legend. Like bigfoot and the lochness monster, the golem is a legend about a large creature who ends up terrorizing humanity, leading to the humane fear of the “other”.

Don’t Pass a Penny on the Street


ME: that sort of thing might incur bad luck? That you believe genuinely

L: so to be honest I’m not a very like superstitious person, however I definitely have some like things that have been passed down in my family. Umm that like I still kinda like, even though I don’t like “believe it” believe it, I always will like follow it because its just kinda part of our family and my heritage. Especially like umm, for example, I have a really big one– and I know it’s such a stereotype, but like my great grandfather uhh, was jewish and he like loved through the great depression, had a very very poor family. And I’ve heard this is a Jewish stereotype, but I’ve like learned from him, our family has like learned down through the generations, that if you like, for example, see a penny on the street you always no matter what pick it up. Because wasting money is like is such horrible luck. And like if if you know, if the universe gives you the gift of like finding a like a penny on the street you take it and then you like think about your family. So that’s a big one that I learned from my mom 

ME: so passing it would incur bad luck upon you?

L: uhh yes…

ME: or is..?

L: – no that’s part of it, but like yeah it’s bad luck because, it’s about like appreciation for money and appreciation for like being given things.

ME: clarifying: you learned that from…?

L: I learned that from my mother who learned that from her grandfather who is Jewish, yeah. And I think that is like a wider Jewish thing. I’ve heard that

ME: thank you


This superstition was shared with me by a friend after going grocery shopping together when we sat in my bedroom to do schoolwork together.

L is a Jewish-American USC student studying sociology who grew up in Colorado.


L attributes this superstition to a respect for money and for good fortune. I think this makes sense, especially with the origin of the practice L describes: her great-grandfather growing up poor during the great depression.

Two Jews, three opinions

This joke comes from my sister, BZ, who converted to Judaism four years ago. 


A popular joke is “Two Jews, three opinions.” 


“This just means that Jews love to argue and debate so much that there are three opinions for every two Jews,” BZ said. “It is used when arguing and being silly.” She first heard this phrase used in “a Jewish arguing Facebook group.” She says she and her boyfriend, who is also Jewish, use this sometimes when they are arguing over things that aren’t very important. “I’m a very stubborn person with a lot of opinions so my boyfriend thinks it’s funny to say this to me when I’m ranting about something that doesn’t really matter.” 


I found this to be a fun and silly joke. I have heard harmful stereotypes about Jewish people being stubborn or even greedy in terms of their past as tax collectors in the Bible, so I think it’s nice that the Jewish community has kind of reclaimed their own stereotype and made it into a digestible inside joke to be enjoyed among themselves. I will say that I think this joke is best to be made by Jewish people, because I think if other groups use it, it enters back into the harmful stereotype category. 

The Double Mitzvah

This tabooistic vocabulary comes from my sister, BZ, who converted to Judaism four years ago. 


“We call having sex on Saturday ‘the double mitzvah.’”


“This means you have fulfilled two commandments at once: be fruitful and multiply, and enjoy the Sabbath,” BZ said. She first heard this phrase while at dinner at Hillel. She says she and her friends use this phrase quite often because they think it’s a funny innuendo that only their community would pick up on.


When my sister shared this tabooistic phrase with me, I thought it was really funny. I’ve obviously heard different sayings that refer to sex like “hook up,” but I hadn’t heard anything tied to religion. The only religion I’m extremely familiar with is Christianity and I have definitely not heard many sex jokes from that realm. I think it’s great that the Jewish community is able to be casual and playful when it comes to referring to sex instead of making it a shameful thing.


“A moil was retiring and at the end of his career. He went to a tailor, and said ‘I’ve been saving the foreskins from all of the circumcisions I’ve performed in my career.’ ‘I would like you to make something for me out of them.’ He hands the tailor a jar filled with these foreskins. The moil comes back in a week and the tailor hands him a wallet. He said ‘that’s it?’, ‘All of that material and it’s just a wallet?’ The tailor says, ‘rub it, it turns into a suitcase’”. 


This is a joke my dad heard from his “old dirty grandfather” when he was young. He prefaced the joke by explaining that a moil is a rabbi that performs circumcisions. Both my dad and his grandfather are Jewish. 


This text qualifies as a dirty joke in that it deals with socially taboo material such as circumcision, genitalia, and masturbation. This joke toys with what is socially acceptable, especially told to a relatively young child. It is humorous because it is shocking and a little bit grotesque. Telling jokes with “dirty” material is an act of rebellion against social norms, which explains some of the appeal. I also can see this joke as told in this setting as an initiation, or a rite of passage. The fact that this joke was told to my dad at a young age by his grandfather leads me to believe that there was some sort of knowledge exchange or initiation occurring, from an older male member of the Jewish community, to a younger member. Puberty can be seen as a significant rite of passage, and this joke which discusses circumcision, genitalia, and alludes to masturbation, could be an unofficial signifier of male coming of age. This joke is likely only told in male jewish spaces, given that it deals with a Jewish tradition that only applies to males. It could be an indicator of comradery and masculinity in these spaces. In a way, by telling this joke to my dad, his grandfather introduced him to this boys club, signifying his coming of age. It is also interesting that the joke deals with circumcision, which is done at a young age, along with a reference to masturbation, which typically is associated with puberty.