Great-Grandma Jenny’s Sense of Humor

Great-Grandma Jenny’s Sense of Humor

My namesake, my great-grandmother Jenny, had a great sense of humor.

She had trained as a secretary, but after she married, she never worked outside the home again. She was very busy– with her 2 children and with her home–doing laundry in tubs in the basement and sweeping the sidewalks every day to clear away the dust that gathered from the unpaved street.

One day, while Jenny was sweeping the sidewalk by her home, a neighbor, assuming she was her family’s maid, approached her:

“Excuse me, but I’m looking for a cleaning lady. Would you be interested in working for me instead of for this family?”
“Thank you, sir, but I’m happy with my current job.”
“But, ma’am, at this family, you also have to take care of children. It would be much easier for you to work for me; I have no children at home.”
“Thank you, again, sir. You might be right, but I am quite attached to these children.”

And Jenny wasn’t the only one among my forebears with a sense of humor.Though the next humorous anecdote, unlike Jenny’s, took place under tragic circumstances.

In the 1880s, Jenny’s future brothers-in-law realized that they would not be accepted to the university in nearby Kiev if they did not convert to Christianity. So, sadly, they did just that (their brother, Jenny’s husband, moved to America soon after, in part, to avoid a similar fate).

One day, those brothers were walking along the street by campus, conversing in Yiddish.

When a fellow student rebuked them for speaking Yiddish, one of the brothers, without missing a beat, answered him, “I’m a goy, I’ll speak whatever I want!”


  1. Love It!!

    when my grandfather applied for American Citizenship in his 70’s, he was asked all the usual questions by a very bored official:
    were you ever in jail for robbery? “no”
    are you a prostitute? “no”
    did you ever commit murder? “no”
    did you ever smuggle anything? “yes” WHAT??? YOU ADMIT TO SMUGGLING? “yes, when I was 14 years old, I smuggled myself across the border from Poland into Germany”

    with humor, timing is everything

  2. Great stories – better than stories: family history!
    Your Yiddish story reminds me of the old joke where a Jew in the 1950s tried to get into a No-Jews-Allowed country club on Long Island. He said his name was not Sam Cohen, but Sean Crane. First day on the golf course, he aims for the ball, swings, hits it off the tee with panache, and it sails across the green, only to land past the 18th hole in a sand trap. “Oy vey!” he yells. And everyone around him becomes uncomfortably quiet.
    Sam clears his throat – “Whatever THAT means,” he says.

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