The new season of Old Jews Telling Jokes begins June 9th!
Oh, do we have some surprises in store for you.

Barnett Hoffman, "Morris and Jake"

The last joke of the season is, appropriately, my dad. I hope everyone has enjoyed watching the first season of jokes as much as we enjoyed making them. We will debut the next round of jokes in June. Please watch this site for an announcement about our launch date. In the meantime, please keep enjoying your favorite jokes.

Ricky Cohen, "Chicken"

Ricky Cohen is a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School. At Princeton, he played on the golf team. As a judge, he sat on the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. He is also an avid sailor.

Neil Lawner, "D Batteries"

Since retiring from his practice, Neil Lawner teaches dentistry at NYU.

Joel Leizer, "Centipede"

Joel Leizer has no additional biographical information this week.  That's because he's a man of mystery.

Bert Busch, "Viagra"

Bert Busch is the youngest of the three Busch brothers who have been represented on this site. They practice law together and are very close. Allegedly, the only thing they argue about is "who is the funniest?"

Barnett Hoffman, "Medium"

During my dad's tenure as a criminal judge, he started ASAP which stands for Adult Substance Abuse Program. It's the only judicially supervised in-custody substance abuse program in the state of New Jersey, so that drug dependent people can help themselves while incarcerated.

Yeah, I know it's not funny. It's just great.

Neil Lawner, "White Wedding"

Neil Lawner is a very accomplished still photographer who has been exhibited often.  One of his images hangs in my father's law office.

Vicki Salz, "Frog Jump"

Vicky Salz hails from Weequahic, the section of Newark made famous by Philip Roth.  She is currently a social worker, but was previously a Physical Education teacher.  Notorious amongst her friends as an inveterate collector, she also plays a mean kazoo.

Michael Goldberg, "Honda"

In his spare time, to unwind from his work at the hospital, Michael Goldberg races Ferraris.

Larry Donsky, "Baby"

In addition to meeting my father, Larry also met his wife Susan at Camp Delwood. They have been married close to 50 years.

BONUS VIDEO: Monday Night Football's Tony Kornheiser, "Sadie"

Monday Night Football's Tony Kornheiser mentions Old Jews Telling Jokes on's Talking Points, March 24, 2009.  See the full episode here!

(Special thanks to the Washington Post, Tony Kornheiser, Cindy Boren, and OJTJ fan Bill Stein who called this to our attention.)

Allen Pinsky, "Mr. Rabinowitz"

Allen Pinsky also went to Camp Delwood with my dad. Then they lived in the same community in Central New Jersey for many years, but my father never recognized him because he didn't have white hair when they were kids at summer camp.

Alan Gordon, "Jake & Becky"

Alan Gordon was an executive at a local paper distribution company when we were in high school. Some of us worked for him in the summer.  We rode around the massive warehouse on a pallet jack, picking loads for the trucks to deliver. We got a Teamsters card and overtime after 5pm. I used to try and remember all the words to American Pie as I rode around the warehouse. It helped pass the time.

Barnett Hoffman, "I Must"

Barnett Hoffman is a die-hard Rutgers Scarlet Knights fan. During their undefeated 1975-1976 basketball season, our family travelled all over the Eastern seaboard to follow their run to the Final Four. It doesn't get much better than that for a nine year old.

Jerry Block, "Heaven"

Jerry Block sells commercial real estate. This isn't his first time in front of the camera. A few years ago, he was surreptitiously filmed while taking a New York City taxi and ended up in a Bud Lite commercial.

Malcolm Busch, "The Pope"

Malcolm's son Andrew was in my geometry class in high school.  As I recall, he was a master of the Pythagorean theorem.  Now he's a Rabbi.

Go figure.

Joel Leizer, "Pork"

Joel Leizer runs an extremely busy dental practice and is a former President of the New Jersey Dental Association. He is an avid golfer,  a proud grandfather and his favorite time for a dental appointment is 2:30. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Ronnie Busch, "Emissions"

Ronnie Busch is the third Busch brother to tell a joke on the site. He has always been remarkably fast with a one-liner. When I decided, after college, to forgo law school and go into the movie business he quipped "Great! Rin-tin-tin needs a stand-in."

It turned out not to be true. Rin-tin-tin has this little bitch he's been working with for years.

Arthur Factor, "Medical Exam"

Dr. Factor, as we will always know him, was our pediatrician. Although I can recall him looking in my ears and my mouth, I dont have any memory of an examination like he describes in his joke.

A Vest Pocket History of Klezmer Music

It’s very likely that if the people here telling the jokes first heard them at a hotel in New York’s Catskills region -- the Borscht Belt as it was lovingly called -- then it’s likely that they also heard the music which opens and closes the segment of the jokes they tell so well.

Klezmer, old time traditional Yiddish dance music was the soundtrack of Ashkenazi Jewry for generations.  Wherever people spoke Yiddish they danced to this music at untold weddings, bar mitzvahs and life cycle events. “A wedding without musicians is like a wedding without a bride.”

Klezmer, (the word comes from the Aramaic  “kley” “zemer” or “musical instruments”) is a musical roadmap telling us where we lived who we played for and what we played on. Fiddles, ‘cellos and hammered dulcimers were the hot instruments of the Middle Ages until replaced by military band instruments in the 19th century, chief among them, the trumpet and clarinet.

Packed alongside prayer shawls, feather beds and family photos albums, klezmer music jumped the Atlantic and became the accompanying music to émigré Jews who made America their home in the decades after the Civil War.  Here, mixed with the exuberant and brassy sound of American ragtime and early jazz, klezmer, now on records, radio and in numerous Yiddish theaters, soon joined the banjo, slide trombone and the sax -- its new American cousins -- alongside the older more venerable instruments of the band.

As the old dances disappeared they were replaced by a snappier and more "with it" sound: in the 1930s klezmer became “Yiddish Swing” while all America danced to “Bei Mir Bistu Sheyn” a Yiddish theater love song.

But American tastes were changing. After World War II, all attention turned to Israel and its attendant new culture and the old melodies from a now-destroyed world seemed quaintly irrelevant.  It was only the uptick of Holocaust survivors who came to America who still cherished that nearly vanquished culture who kept it alive in the 50s and 60s but with whose own passing that world nearly slipped away.

But in the last 30 years a new generation of musicians -- many born after World War Two -- have again taken up the exuberant klezmer music of their ancestors playing it with a self possession and sense of ownership that almost makes it seem like it had never nearly died out.  From Brooklyn to Berlin and beyond, klezmer has transcended its modest roots to become one of the hottest music on the World Music stage.

And what does it prove, but, that like a good old joke, klezmer music can easily transcend the era in which it was created to reach a new and endlessly appreciative audience.

-- Henry Sapoznik

Visiting Scholar on Yiddish and American popular culture,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
producer of "Dave Tarras' B flat Bulgars"
(intro music to Old Jews Telling Jokes)

Louis Goldstein, "Bobka"

Louis Goldstein is active in several charities including the "Wounded Warrior Battalion" which supports Veterans and the "Challah Fund" for which he delivers challahs to cancer patients every Friday night.

Neil Lawner, "Honeymoon"

Neil Lawner and his partner were the most popular orthodontists in Central New Jersey when we were growing up. When my mother took me in for an exam, his partner suggested that they would have to remove four of my teeth before giving me braces. My mother told him politely that I had room in my mouth for all of my teeth and probably some extras. Then she took me to the second most popular orthodontist.

Larry Donsky, "Hospital"

Since his retirement a few years ago, Larry Donsky has lived in an active-adult community in New Jersey where he sits as Chairman of the Entertainment Committee.

Malcolm Busch, "Drobkin"

Malcolm Busch is a first-cousin of my father's. "Drobkin" is an outstanding example of a story that is well-practiced and honed to perfection. I especially love his use of the word "stripling." Right now, I laughed a little just typing that word. Stripling.

Barnett Hoffman, "Fidelity"

Barnett Hoffman is my dad. He was a criminal judge in New Jersey for twenty years where he would occasionally crack jokes from the bench. (Lawyers were not required to laugh but the smart ones did.) He was also the casting director for this project.

David Paszamant, "Chicken"

David Paszamant ran a very successful wine business for many years. He is also an avid collector and eBay trader. Contrary to popular belief, he has never sold a chicken.

Michael Goldberg, "Plumber"

Dr. Michael Goldberg worked with my mom at St. Peter's hospital. I wouldn't have thought that there were funny Gynecologic Oncologists, but there you are.

Bert Busch, "Health Care"

Bert Busch's mother Jeanette was the second of my grandfather's five sisters. His brothers Malcolm and Ron also contributed jokes. When we were growing up in the seventies, Bert had a groovy moustache that made him look a little like Gomez from the Addams family.

Diane Hoffman, "Broccoli"

Diane Hoffman is my mom. She can do pretty much anything and, at any given time, is doing everything. She's also one of the few joke tellers to drop the F bomb. Kind of makes me proud.

Louis Goldstein, "Golf"

Louis Goldstein was a US Marine in the 1950s and he still looks like he could kick your ass.  He ran an independent lumberyard in Central New Jersey for many years.

Larry Donsky, "McCoy"

Larry Donsky and my father attended Camp Dellwood together in Honesdale, PA from 1950 to 1954. At camp, Larry was known as "Moose"  Donsky. Later, he played first base and catcher for a Coney Island League  baseball team and worked in the Garment district in New  York. He and my father fell out of touch for thirty years until my father decided to look him up in the white pages and call him.  They have since rekindled their friendship and spearheaded the one and only Camp Dellwood reunion.

Old Jews Telling Jokes: What's this thing all about?

My dad can tell a story. But he’d prefer to tell a joke.

Storytelling is a Jewish tradition.  You’ve probably seen Fiddler on the Roof.  Whenever they ask the Rabbi a question, he tugs thoughtfully on his beard and says  “let me tell you a story.” Then they sing.

Jokes are like stories, but shorter and funnier. Old jokes tend to have a stigma, but they only last if they’re good. Some of the best ones provide a window to the culture of a bygone era.  They can reveal the concerns of a generation or even the generation before.  Anxieties of coming to a new country, of prospering, of assimilating, of having families, of fearing and worrying about, well, everything. Humor was and is the ultimate anti-depressant.

My father gathered twenty of his friends to share their favorite jokes. We set three rules for the production: the joke-tellers were to be Jewish, at least sixty years of age and they were to tell their favorite joke – the one that always kills.

Here, you will find them, Old Jews Telling Jokes.

-- Sam Hoffman