I have a vague recollection of the first time I learned about Vashti. I was sitting at circle time on a primary-colored rug in my pre-K class at Sunday school and was told, “Vashti was not nice to the King. She would not dance for the King.” And we all just nodded our heads in sympathy for King Ahashuarus. “Poor King.” We all thought, “Vashti is evil.”
I am not going to lie, this one has hit me pretty hard. As a comedian who grew up watching Mork and Mindy and left for college the same time he yelled out “Carpe Diem,” today I am mourning the loss of a man I never knew. I just cannot seem to figure out how he knew me so very well.
To paraphrase the legendary Joni Mitchell, I have looked at the Pew Study results from both sides now. I can see how the disconnect with Jewish ritual can be disconcerting and I see how the community’s freedom to identify themselves openly as Jews is incredibly empowering. There’s been a lot of talk about how to interpret the study and where to go from here, but I wonder if we might already have the tools we need to bridge the gaps noted in the study, using some of the traits that the study said best identify the Jewish community.
It turns out that “Jewish Funny” has become evidence-based. Results from the recent Pew Study “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” four in 10 of the 5.3 million religious and cultural Jews surveyed consider a sense of humor essential to Jewish identity. Having a sense of humor is part of our communications and value system. It’s as if we have a framework for which we see the world that lets us find and enjoy the irony of life’s complications. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the words “irony” and “oy” both have an “o” and a “y”.