George S. Kaufman (1889-1961) was one of the wittiest men who ever lived. He was one of the stars among the ever-so-clever people who regularly assembled for lunch at the Algonquin Round Table.
One day a guest was boring everyone by boasting about the antiquity and eminence of his family. His ancestors, he said, could be traced back to the Crusades.
Kaufman interrupted. “I had a famous ancestor, too. Sir Roderick Kaufman. He also went off to the Crusades.”
“As a spy, of course.”
Richard Tucker, famous Jewish tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, was flattered when a dashing new tenor at the Met, Franco Corelli, asked
him for advice in singing “O dolci mani” from Puccini’s “Tosca.”
Replied Tucker, with a smile, “To sing it right, Franco, you have to be Jewish.”
–Ethan Mordden, Opera Anecdotes, Oxford University Press, 1985
Larry Adler, the harmonica player, told the story of ten mice brought for audition to the famous impresario Sol Hurok.
They played the third of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos-nine string players and one harpsichord continuo.
Hurok turned them down.
“Yeah, they play well enough,” he said. “But they look too Jewish.”
From “Words About Music,” by John Amis and Michael Rose, 1989
The first Jewish broadcast from Germany after World War II: