A serious look into Jewish comedy at Temple Beth Israel

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Jeremy Dauber and his new book (Courtesy of Nancy Feldman).

Jewish comedy can trace its roots all the way back to biblical times and remains at the forefront of popular culture through comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman. Jeremy Dauber sought to document the way Jewish history has affected Jewish humor and vice versa in his book “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History,” which he will discuss at an event at Temple Beth Israel next week.

The event with Dauber will be held at the synagogue in Port Washington on Thursday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. It was rescheduled from its original date in February. Attendance is free and refreshments will be provided.

“We’ve never had anything remotely similar to this,” said Bob Epstein, who organizes events for Temple Beth Israel. “We’ve never had anything regarding Jewish comedy or comedy in general, so it’s kind of a new look at that, which is always kind of a good thing.”

Epstein said Dauber will talk about his book and then answer questions from the audience. There will be a book signing afterward.

Dauber is a professor at Columbia University specializing in Yiddish and Jewish literature and culture. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard and attended Oxford University for his doctorate as a Rhodes scholar.

“Jewish Comedy” is his fourth book.

Epstein said Dauber’s visit is part of the temple’s association with the Jewish Book Council. The council has authors give a presentation on a recent book and then passes on the names of authors to groups who are part of the program. Epstein said synagogues in Great Neck and Huntington are also part of the program.

“They come up with a whole reference brochure about each author and a summary of their book … we select two authors, and it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis,” he said.

He said this was the temple’s second year in the program and he has been pretty satisfied with the authors who have come to Temple Beth Israel.

Epstein said he was very excited to have Dauber come speak.

“We’re glad to have him. He’s very highly thought of,” he said. “People will have the opportunity to learn things that they don’t know about comedy, and about some of the deeper meanings or relevance and how it shaped our history and world.”

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