The LABA Theme for 2019-2020 is HUMOR

Laughter, humor, sarcasm, and mockery are so closely associated with Jewish culture — especially Jewish-American culture — that many use the terms “Jewish” and “humorous” interchangeably. Where did this association come from, and what does it say about our self-perception? Have we always been such “funny” people? If so, why does the prophet Isaiah warn us: “Now stop your mocking, or your chains will become heavier.” (28:22) And the book of Psalms opens with this somber statement: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (1:1)

This year at LABA we will contemplate the various ways in which our culture dealt with humor throughout its long and complex history, and study an array of Jewish texts, both ancient and contemporary, that celebrate the gift of Jewish humor, but also expose the dark, perhaps even tragic side of it.