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Home --> Rumors of War --> One Jew

One Jew

Legend:   A business in Philadelphia posted a notice that it would rather do business with 1,000 terrorists than with one Jew.

Examples:

[Collected on the Internet, 2001]

The following sign was posted in the front window of a local Brooklyn neighborhood business.

WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 ARABS THAN WITH ONE JEW



[Collected on the Internet, 2003]

A sign at a business establishment in Philadelphia, PA:

"WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 AL QAEDA TERRORISTS THAN WITH A SINGLE AMERICAN"

This sign was prominently displayed in the window of a business in Philadelphia. You are probably outraged at the thought of such an inflammatory statement. One would think that anti-hate groups from all across the country would be marching on this business... And that the National Guard might have to be called to keep the angry crowds back. But, perhaps in these stressful times one might be tempted to let the proprietors simply make their statement . . . We are a society who holds Freedom of Speech as perhaps our greatest liberty . . .and after all, it is just a sign.

You may ask what kind of business would dare post such a sign? (look below)

Answer: A Funeral Home
(Who said morticians had no sense of humor?)

Variations:
  • Current e-mail versions claim this of an unnamed business either in Philadelphia or one of the boroughs of New York City, but the story could be localized to any city or town.
Origins:   When is a joke so obviously a leg-pull that everyone will always recognize it as such? According to our harvest of e-mail, the answer to that puzzler, at least for some, is "never." Folks continue to ask "Is this true?" about the sad plight of Billy Evans, the burlap bag boy, and wonder if the President really does want women to run naked into the streets every night at 7 p.m.

As a joke, the "one Jew" tale is less obvious than the two howlers just mentioned because its punchline is often omitted. Lacking its tagline, this bit of humor could be misinterpreted as a blatant display of anti-Semitism on the part of some unnamed shopkeeper. The intent should be obvious in the full version, however:
The following sign is posted in the front window of a local neighborhood business.

WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 TERRORISTS THAN WITH ONE JEW.

GOLDBERG'S FUNERAL HOME
The meaning of "We would rather do business with 1,000 terrorists" falls into place once the type of concern displaying the sign is known — the apocryphal funeral parlor owner is announcing he'd like to see a thousand terrorists dead, in that the "business" he's proposing would be burying them.

The name of the mortuary (Goldberg's or Goldstein's are most commonly given) provides additional motivation for the expression of this particular sentiment — someone of that surname is presumed to be Jewish and thus especially anti-terrorist (since all terrorists are assumed to be Arabs these days) and pro-Jew. The message is therefore the reverse of what it first appears to be — it's pro-Jewish.

As for the " . . . than with one Jew" element, repositories of Jewish humor contain many gems playing upon the underlying theme of not wanting to lose another member of that community because such subtractions diminish an already vulnerable and outnumbered minority:
An elderly Jew is on his deathbed and, much to his relatives' surprise, calls for a priest. When the priest arrives, the man declares, "I want to convert."

Confused, the priest asks, "Sir, why on earth would you want to become a Catholic when you've lived all your life a Jew?"

"Better one of them should die than one of us!" the man snaps.
The "one Jew" drollery is being taken at face value by so many because it keys upon an emotionally laden buzzword of the moment ("terrorist") and raises the spectre of a shockingly open expression of prejudice. Both of these elements appear to temporarily mislead some about the reality of the piece: that it is a quip meant to provoke a rueful smile once its meaning sinks in, not an account of something that has actually happened.

Previous incarnations of this tale set the action in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany during WWII. In those tellings, prisoners are offered improved conditions if they volunteer to work for the Germans. One man steps forward and announces he'd rather work for a hundred Germans than one allied soldier. Naturally, he turns out to be an undertaker.

Barbara "rasp buried" Mikkelson

Last updated:   7 April 2008

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