Jewish Wit and Wisdom

Jewish Wit and Wisdom

by Galewitz, Dover Thrift Editions

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"It's no disgrace to be poor," observed Sholom Aleichem, "but it's no great honor, either." "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city," remarked George Burns, while Marc Chagall noted that "Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers and never succeeding." These and many more classic examples of Jewish wit


"It's no disgrace to be poor," observed Sholom Aleichem, "but it's no great honor, either." "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city," remarked George Burns, while Marc Chagall noted that "Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers and never succeeding." These and many more classic examples of Jewish wit and wisdom — sometimes hilarious, frequently profound, almost always incisive — enliven the pages of this entertaining and practical little volume.
Some 500 aphorisms include observations and remarks from statesmen, writers, artist, philosophers, jurists, musicians, and celebrities — from the prophets of the Old Testament, the Talmud, and Maimonides to Joey Adams, Barbra Streisand, and Woody Allen. Here also are memorable quotes from Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Fanny Brice, Heinrich Heine, Sam Goldwyn, Golda Meir, Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Herman Mankiewicz, Albert Einstein, and many others.
Arranged alphabetically by author, these thought-provoking pronouncements will not only serve as a handy resource for speech writers and public speakers but will also amuse and inspire all readers.

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Jewish Wit and Wisdom

By Herb Galewitz

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2001 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11014-1


The best you get is an even break.

The best part of the fiction in many novels is the notice that the characters are all purely imaginary.

Middle age occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.

Count that day won when, turning on its axis, this earth imposes no additional taxes.


The most popular labor-saving device today is still a husband with money.

If you want to feel important, go on a diet.

A psychiatrist is a fellow who asks you a lot of expensive questions your wife asks for nothing.

Never let a fool kiss you or a kiss fool you.


A house is not a home.


A woman can be evaluated by her cooking, her dressing — and her husband.

If you don't eat garlic, they'll never smell it on your breath.

Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.

Adam was the luckiest man: he had no mother-in-law.

If you want to live forever ... move to our town of Kasrilevka [a town where everyone is poor]. There you can never die, because since Kasrilevka has been a town, no rich man has ever died there.

It's no disgrace to be poor, but it's no great honor, either.

A kind word is no substitute for a piece of herring or a bag of oats.

The real "Jewish Question" is this: From what can a Jew earn a living?

Even if the kugel doesn't quite work out, you still have the noodles.

I have a wife, you have a wife, we all have wives, we've had a taste of paradise, we know what it means to be married.

As we say on Yom Kippur, the Lord decides who will ride on horseback and who will crawl on foot. The main thing is — hope!


Change means movement, movement means friction, friction means heat, and heat means controversy. The only place where there is no friction is outer space or a seminar on political action.


But it turns out in New York State they have a very funny law that says you can't get a divorce unless you can prove adultery, and that's very strange because the Ten Commandments say, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." So New York State says you have to.

Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances of a date on a Saturday night.

I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.

If only God would give me some clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.


Do you have a family tree? We ain't even got a flowerpot.

Summer is the time for those weekend auto trips. One day driving, two days folding the road map.

A bachelor is a man who goes to work every day from a different direction.

Marriage is wonderful. Without it husbands and wives would have to fight with strangers.


Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.

The hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself.


The best security for old age: respect your children.

It has always been much like writing a check ... It is easy to write a check if you have enough money in the bank, and writing comes more easily if you have something to say.


I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.


The best way to lose weight is to eat all you want of everything you don't like.


A political leader must keep looking over his shoulder all the time to see if the boys are still there. If they aren't still there, he's no longer a political leader.

To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.

I'm not smart. I try to observe. Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked why.

Age is only a number, a cipher for the records. A man can't retire his experience. He must use it. Experience achieves more with less energy and time.

When the outlook is steeped in pessimism I remind myself, "Two and two still make four, and you can't keep mankind down for long."

An elder statesman is somebody old enough to know his own mind and keep quiet about it.

We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat.

I was the son of an immigrant. I experienced bigotry, intolerance and prejudice, even as so many of you have. Instead of allowing these things to embitter me, I took them as spurs to more strenuous effort.

There are no such things as incurables, there are only things for which man has not found a cure.


Marriage always demands the greatest understanding of the art of insincerity possible between two human beings.


Psychoanalysis was a wonderful discovery; it made quite simple people feel they are complex.


If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.


Man's life is not a business.


In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.


Learning begins with listening.


Governments last as long as the undertaxed can defend themselves against the overtaxed.

Between the truth and the search for the truth, I choose the second.

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.

Sexual relationships are often like an hourglass; one single point of contact.


Love and romance is something everybody needs and that's irregardless.

After Molly gave Jake some money to go into business, they sat down to dinner and Jake said: "Molly, darling, some day we will be eating out of golden plates." Molly said, "Jake, darling, will it taste any better?"

Not all lovesick maidens are maidens — sometimes they're women, also.

Money is of no consequence unless you owe it.

There are surface differences. To me, the really interesting and beautiful thing is that these surface differences only serve to emphasize how much alike most people are underneath.


Women without principle draw considerable interest.


A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody


Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience.


The materialist is a Calvinist without a God.


The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone he can blame it on.


He drinks beer, a habit no more bacchanalian than taking enemas.


We suffer primarily not from our vices or weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality.

Nothing is real unless it happens on television.


Judaism is going to be to American culture what Buddhism was to the eighties. This is going to be the Jewish millenium.


The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.

The right to be let alone is the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued in civilized man.

Behind every argument is someone's ignorance.

Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent.

If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.

I think all of our human experience shows that no one with absolute power can be trusted to give it up even in part.


There's no fool like an old fool — you can't beat experience.


Men always fall for frigid women because they put on the best show.

I'm a bad voman, but I'm dem good company.

Master Mind! He couldn't Master Mind an electric bulb into a socket.

For $10,000 I'd endorse an opium pipe.


Life — the way it really is — is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.


Look at Jewish history; unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast beaters. By the time I was five, I knew I was that one.

Max Bialystok (Zero Mostel): Leo, he who hesitates is poor.

(from The Producers)

2000-Year-Old Man [on the secret of longevity]: The major thing is I never ever touch fried food. I don't eat it and I wouldn't look at it. And I never run for a bus. There'll always be another.

2000-Year-Old Man: I have 42,000 children and not one comes to visit me.


I'll always be accused of bad taste, especially by people who eat in restaurants that reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

If you could tell me Christ or Moses, for instance, would say to some kid, "Hey, that's a white fountain; you can't drink out of there," you're out of your skull. No one can tell me Christ or Moses would do that.


When a man has made peace within himself, he will be able to make peace in the whole world.

When a man is intimate with his wife, the longing of the eternal hills wafts about them.

Yet whoever hates directly is closer to a relation than those who are without love and hate.


You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.

The most important thing in acting is honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.


I lived in a pretty tough neighborhood. You either grew up to be a judge or you went to the chair.

Even the great Montezuma, the man who said, "Stop that dancing in the halls" ... never had a dinner in his honor.


The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever.

The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there it's there.


Two dollars will buy all the happiness or all the misery in the world. At least, that used to be the price of a marriage license.


There is one difference between a tax collector and a taxidermist — the taxidermist leaves the hide.


Abstract art? A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.


Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances.

Liberty in the most literal sense is negation of law, for law is restraint; the absence of restraint is anarchy.

Justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser, too.

Prophecy, however honest, is generally a poor substitute for experience.


"Kildare? This is Dr. Gillespie. Do you know what you did this morning, you young whelp? You performed an appendectomy with a milkhidek scalpel!"


Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers, and never succeeding.


A definition of law is useful or useless. It is not true or false.

Generally, the theories we believe we call facts, and the facts we disbelieve we call theories.

Legal concepts are supernatural entities which do not have a verifiable existence except to the eyes of faith.


The business of the philosopher is well done if he succeeds in raising genuine doubts.

But I still maintain that, by all the canons of our modern books on comparative religion, baseball is a religion, and the only one that is not sectarian but national.

All peoples have pious fictions and sacrosanct expressions which make free thought and honest speech seem improper. This is true even among people noted for their progress in science and technology.

... the main function of teaching philosophy should be the opening of the human mind to new possibilities, rather than the inculcation of any new set of doctrines.

Science is a flickering light in our darkness, but it is the only one we have and woe to him who would put it out.

For where the basis of distinction is only the attainment of wealth, everybody tries to appear on a level higher than his own.

Love is a "grand" word that carries a rich afflatus with it; but for the solution of social problems we cannot dispense with the requisite critical intelligence.


You can get more with a kind word and a gun than just with a kind word.


If it weren't for pickpockets, I'd have no sex life at all.


After I decided to become a Jew, only then did I learn the Jews don't really have all the money. When I found out Rockefeller and Ford were goyim I almost resigned.


Judges are the weakest link in our system of justice and they are the most protected.


Man doth not live by bread only.


Composers shouldn't think too much — it interferes with their plagiarism.


Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.

Talk to a man about himself and he will listen for hours.

Description is always a bore, both to the describer and the describee.

"Frank and explicit" is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and confuse the mind of others.

If you are not very clever, you should be conciliatory.

If you wish to win a man's heart, allow him to confute you.

A precedent embalms a principle.

Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.

I am bound to furnish my antagonists with arguments, but not with comprehension.

Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth.

Finality is not the language of politics.

The characteristic of the present age is craven credulity.

Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forgo an advantage.

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.


The defects of great men are the consolation of dunces.

Beware the man of one book.

The wise make proverbs and fools repeat them.

Those who do not read criticism will rarely merit to be criticized.


The paradox is that those people who left only monuments behind as a record of their existence have vanished with time, whereas the ones who left ideas have survived.


History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.


To read some of the most important of contemporary writers, one would think they never had a gay moment or that they could not tolerate such a heresy among others.

One of the pet illusions of the reformer and the intellectual is that it is impossible to be serious without being solemn.


We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism.

Never did Mozart write for eternity, and it is for precisely that reason that much of what he wrote is for eternity.

I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.

I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause ... Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the moneybags of Carnegie?

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

God is subtle — but he is not malicious.

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.

Truth is what stands the test of experience.

When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute — and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.

The discovery of nuclear chain reaction need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than the discovery of matches.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.


Excerpted from Jewish Wit and Wisdom by Herb Galewitz. Copyright © 2001 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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