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By: Daniel Wolf

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But Is He Jewish? is divided into three sections. The first section, “Quirky Tales,” consists of fifty short stories. Although each touches upon some aspect of Jewish life and culture, they deal with such universal themes as love, mortality, courage, coming of age, and the importance of family.

The following section, “Mishegas” (Yiddish for craziness), includes stand-up comedy routines, the philosophical musings of a fictitious rabbi, advice for daily living (“A Guide for the Confused”), “Eighty Questions to Ponder,” and nonsensical poetry (“Quit”).

The final section, “Animals with Attitudes”, features four humorous mini-plays with animals (elephants, lions, housecats, and rhinoceroses) taking on Jewish characteristics and even speaking some Yiddish (translations provided).

In all, But Is He Jewish? provides a delightful reading experience, as it addresses a variety of topics in a mostly humorous but always human manner.

Hollywood Book Reviews:

Daniel Wolf stands on the shoulders of comedic giants: Mort Sahl; Henny Youngman; Alan King; Larry David; Jerry Seinfeld; Rodney Dangerfield. (Wolf, a writer, educator, and world traveler, is also a stand-up comic.) What they all have in common is hilarity, culture of origin (they’re all Jewish), and a marked aversion to pulling punches.

In But Is He Jewish? and Other Quirky Tales, Daniel Wolf tells it like it is, and gets us laughing…splitting our sides…tumbling with wryness, mirth, and nostalgia.

The book, three sections in all, delivers. The first section, ‘Quirky Tales’, is comprised of fifty very short stories. These ‘flash fictions’ cover the field. In one story, the Wailing Wall goes on tour – as does Niagara Falls. These swipes at culture and commercialism are grandiloquently handled by characters whose foibles and failings are commensurate with their very crazy worlds.

Check out the characters’ names: Milton Abramson; Saul Friedman; Sheila Nussbaum; Sy Bleiweiss. These guys and gals, their dialogue, their terms of endearment and loathing; their favorite nosh food: these are instantly familiar and welcome to all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike.

Here’s ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, representative of the collection:

Bernard Levin and Milton Abramson are the only two men to have succeeded in escaping from the notorious prison-fortress of Alcatraz. They bade farewell as they reached shore upon their small floating device, yet Bernard could see Milton was unhappy about something. Years later, they chanced to meet, and Bernard asked Milton what was troubling him that night so long ago. Without missing a beat, Milton replied that he had wanted to row. There you have it: understatement, tongue-in-cheek gallows humor – Daniel Wolf’s forte.

Entire lives are lived out in the space of two or three paragraphs. Protagonists meet their Maker, finally graced with knowledge, epiphany and smarts. Men and women eulogize, their end-of-life deathbed pronouncements taking wing on breezy humor and wit.

In one story, a King Solomon-type divides up the year so two warring guys can follow their sports teams without missing a play…In another, a woebegone Seeker After Truth finally realizes that the meaning of life is contained in the words to doing “The Hokey Pokey”: You put your left foot in, your take your right foot out…

Older flaccid guys bemoan their virile youth. Moms and dads do their best to deal with wayward sons and daughters. A male prostitute goes on to become a rabbi. One hostess’ parting shot, cultural commentary for sure, is not lost on us: We don’t serve cream cheese, we serve cream cheese spread. ‘Mishegas’ (Yiddish for ‘nonsense’), the second section, contains stand-up routines, the philosophical musings of a fictional rabbi, and advice for daily living. The third section features four humorous mini-plays with elephants, lions, and rhinoceroses who just happen to have Jewish attributes.

The book is a delightful sampler, a smorgasbord, serving up bite-size tidbits of humor, topped with reflection and wistful charm. Kosher, too.

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