David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion, Volume 2 — Prejudice, Problem-Solving

Prejudice

• Groucho Marx hated prejudice. (You probably remember that when he was excluded from a beach club because he was Jewish, he asked, “Since my children are only half-Jewish, can they go into the water up to their knees?”) Once, he joined a club for Jews only. He and his brother Harpo immediately worked to change the rules so Gentiles could join. Danny Thomas was one of the first people to take advantage of the new rules.

• On June 3, 1972, in Cincinnati, Sally Priesand became the first woman ordained as a rabbi in the United States. Some congregations refused to accept her as a student rabbi after her fifth year of study, and some congregations refused to accept her as a rabbi after her eighth year of study. However, she eventually became an assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York.

• Just before World War II, a Jew in Vienna wanted to emigrate to avoid the coming destruction. He went to a travel agent, who showed him a globe and asked him where he wanted to go. However, every time the Jew named a country, the travel agent replied that the country had a quota, or didn’t accept Jews, or there was a long waiting period for a visa. Finally, the Jew asked, “Do you have another globe?”

• During World War II, a French monastery hid several Jewish children, including Pierre Weiss, from the Nazis. A picture of Jesus was found under Pierre’s pillow, and he was asked why he had put the picture there. Pierre explained, “Jesus was a Jew, and in order to save him from the Gestapo, I hid him.”

• A homophobe once said to lesbian comedian Judy Carter, “I love the sinner. I just hate the sin.” She replied, “Do you really love me? Then don’t fire me from my job, don’t take away my constitutional rights, don’t take my children away from me, don’t murder me … that is, if you love me.”

• Back in 1977, Anita Bryant organized a campaign against gay men and lesbians that started in Dade County, Florida, then spread nationwide. Some supporters of the anti-gay campaign put this bumper sticker on their cars: “Kill a Queer for Christ.”

• An African-American man got on a subway, sat down, opened a Yiddish newspaper and began to read. A Jew tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Black isn’t enough for you?”

• Danny Kaye once said that he’d emigrate to Israel if he were younger. Why? He explained, “There, if somebody calls you a dirty Jew, it’s just because you haven’t taken a bath.”

Problem Solving

• Two women asked Rabbi Saul of Tiktin to resolve a dispute. Each claimed that a 5-ruble note belonged to her. The rabbi took possession of the 5-ruble note, then asked the two women many questions, but was unable to determine to which woman the 5-ruble note really belonged. Therefore, he went into another room, leaving the door ajar so the two women could overhear him, and talked to his wife. He told her that he was having a hard time deciding to which woman the 5-ruble note belonged — for one thing, the 5-ruble note had a torn corner, and neither woman had mentioned it to him. When he returned to the two women, one of the women told him that she had just remembered that the 5-ruble note had a torn corner. The rabbi replied, “In that case, this 5-ruble note is not yours because it does not have a torn corner.” He showed the note to her, then handed it to the other woman.

• While traveling, Zen master Zenko came across a ruined temple. He examined the temple and decided to restore it. However, there was a problem: How to raise the funds necessary for rebuilding the temple? Taking thought, Zenko posted signs saying that he would burn himself to death on a certain day, and if any people cared to donate money, he would allow them to watch. On the day of the scheduled suicide, Zenko meditated silently on top of a huge mass of firewood, then he opened his eyes and told the crowd of people watching him, “While I was meditating, the saints all told me, ‘It is still too early for you to think of leaving the world. Put up with this world for a while longer, and stay here to save living beings.’ Therefore, I can’t burn myself to death today.” Zenko then took the money the crowd had donated and used it to restore the temple.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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