Joseph Epstein writes:
The minor league for many of these older comedians, the place where they honed their skills, was the Borscht Belt in the Catskills, whose resort audiences of mostly New York Jews provided one of the most knowing and toughest of all audiences going, so tough that Joey Adams, quoted by Dauber, remarked that “when you bomb in the mountains, it’s like a concentration camp with sour cream.” (…)
Some things, inevitably, are more lightly touched than others. Talmudic humor is among them. The humor of Jewish intramural rivalry—the snobbery obtaining among Eastern, German, and Sephardic Jews—is another. All I remember from a novel read decades ago, whose title and author’s name are lost to me, is that what separates Sephardic Jews from all others, apart from their extravagant genealogical pretensions, is that no Sephardic Jew can stand gefilte fish. German Jews were known by Eastern Jews as yekkes, meaning jackets, or suit jackets, which German Jews in their formality were said never to remove. The stereotype made possible the joke that holds the difference between a yekke and a virgin is that a yekke remains a yekke.
My favourite example of the “intramural rivalry” variety comes from a real life incident:
A very white-collar Jewish acquaintance of Ashkenazi descent began telling me a story about the time he was using a power tool.
Anticipating my surprise (“Jews don’t fix their own cars…”) he added, with perfect timing and a wry smile:
“Yeah — there was a Sephardic guy around and he started it up for me…”