Rabbi Brings Comedy to Campus
Waldoks explained his upbringing as the son of two Holocaust survivors. “I grew up in a highly emotional environment and found levity to be a good tool,” Waldoks explained during the lecture. He performed stand-up comedy for a number of years while also studying Judaism and the works of Sigmund Freud. In 1979 he and William Novak began working on The Big Book of Jewish Humor, an anthology of Jewish jokes, stories, cartoons, and other forms of humor; the book was published in 1981 and remains in print. “It’s a wonderful thing to have around,” commented Waldoks.
Waldoks dedicated his visit at Dickinson to the late Ned Rosenbaum, a retired religion and classics professor under whom Waldoks had previously visited Dickinson. In a phone interview before his visit, Waldoks said, “I owe it to Dickinson to visit because this is my last chance before my daughter [Risa] graduates.”
After Shabbat services in the Asbell Center, a kosher catered dinner was served in the HUB Social Hall at 6 p.m. After the dinner, Professor Ted Merwin, the director of the Asbell Center, introduced Waldoks at 7 p.m.
In his opening remarks, Merwin noted, “He was instrumental in arranging…the historic “Jew in the Lotus” trip to Dharamsala, India in…1990 and has transformed his congregation from a few dozen members to a vibrant community of nearly 600.” Waldoks used his talk to dispel two stereotypes of Jewish humor: laughter through tears and self-hate. In doing so, he read a number of jokes from his book and told stories not included in the book, leaving the audience in stitches.