August Belmont, of Jewish descent, born in Prussia, came to New York and made a fortune. But he was not invited to the City Ball, for the elite. He wrote to the invitation committee: “I have been investigating the accounts of you gentlemen on the Street. Either I get an invitation to the Assembly this year, or else the day after the Assembly each of you will be a ruined man.”
He received an invitation to the ball.
But no one else showed up.
from The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, edited by Clifton Fadiman
Lewis Brown (1897-1949), a rabbi, decided to become a writer.
At a dinner, another rabbi said to him, “You were a rabbi, eh? Were you unfrocked?”
“No,” said Brown. “Just unsuited.”
Willy Brandt, mayor of West Berlin, was invited to see the new Mann auditorium in Tel Aviv.
Was the auditorium named for Thomas Mann, the famous author, Brandt asked.
No, his host replied. It was named for Frederic Mann of Philadelphia.
“What did he ever write?” asked Brandt.
Answer: “A check.”
Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934), the Jewish poet, didn’t win the Nobel Prize during a year when there was speculation that he would.
What was his response?
He was glad he didn’t win.
Bialik: His friends would say, “Now isn’t that a scandal! Imagine such a thing-Bialik, the great poet, doesn’t get the Nobel Prize! And ““ tsk! tsk! ““ just look who they gave it to! To X, that so-and-so! Why, he can’t even hold a candle to Bialik!”
What if he had won?
Bialik: Some of the same people would now say, “Nu, nu, what’s so wonderful about getting the Nobel Prize? Why, even that poet Bialik got one!”
Prime Minister Ben-Gurion addressed the Israeli parliament without wearing a jacket or tie. There were protests. Ben-Gurion claimed that Winston Churchill himself had given him permission. “On my last visit to London, I wanted to take off my jacket and tie. Churchill stopped me. ‘Mr. Prime Minister,’ he said, ‘you can only do that in Jerusalem.”
Eddie Cantor, the comedian, heard that Irving Thalberg, the producer, had had a son. He sent him this telegram: “Congratulations on your latest production. Sure it will look better after it has been cut.”
Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), a wealthy philantropist, was attending a dinner and found himself sitting next to an anti-Semitic nobleman. “I have just returned from Japan,” the fellow said, “and it’s a most unusual country. Did you know that it has neither pigs nor Jews?”
“In that case,” Montefiore answered, “you and I should go there, so it will have a sample of each.”
Rabbi Stephen Wise (1874-1949) accepted an invitation to speak before an anti-Nazi meeting in Brooklyn. He received several threatening letters. So he began his speech this way: “I have been warned to stay away from this meeting under pain of being killed. If anyone is going to shoot me, let him do it now. I hate to be interrupted.”
Hermann Adler (1839-1911) was chief rabbi in London. At an official luncheon, he was sitting next to Herbert Cardinal Vaughn, “Now, Dr. Adler,” said the cardinal, jokingly, “when may I have the pleasure of helping you to some ham?”
The prompt reply: “At Your Eminence’s wedding.”