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Bare Necessities: Food, Clothing and Shelter in American Jewish Humor

Hosted By: The Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University

In this 3-part class, Dr. Ted Merwin will use clips from vaudeville, popular music, film, TV, and stand-up comedy routines to show how the basic needs of human existence became the central themes for Jewish American humor. Having struggled mightily throughout their history, Jews arrived in America with both a boundless faith in the benefits of freedom and an underlying set of insecurities about what it meant to make it in capitalist society. As they became more affluent as a group but still strove to retain their religious and ethnic distinctiveness, these tensions enabled Jews to rise to the top as pre-eminent creators of popular culture.

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