In the darkest moments, in the valley of the shadow of anti-Semitism, in days torn by violence and pain, there is a light, and her name is Sarah Silverman.
And she is committed to teaching the world that there is a better way to make jokes about the Holocaust.
Reflecting on the surfacing of a group of boys from a Wisconsin high school doing a “sieg heil” motion in a prom photo, Silverman said, “Either their prom theme was like ‘A Kristallnacht To Remember’ or we have a white supremacist problem on our hands.”
Now that’s a funny Holocaust joke.
“What this picture shows is that, at a mere suggestion, an entire group of young white men gave the Nazi salute with laughing, smiling, joyful faces,” Silverman went on, dead serious.
The photo, she pointed out, wasn’t funny. It was, in fact, not recognizable as a joke, which is sort of a necessary element of comedy. It’s not an issue of being politically correct, the very politically incorrect comic pointed out. “I’ve dressed up as Hitler. I’ve probably made six million Holocaust jokes,” she said. “I’m not even going to go so far as to say you have to be Jewish to make jokes about Jews. You just have to not hate Jews.”
Silverman went on to give this casually brilliant analysis:
“I think it’s safe to say that in this picture, there’s a percentage of these guys that are straight-up anti-Semitic…I’d say a percentage of them are just ignorant to the weight of what that particular salute means, and a percentage of them are just, like, trying to survive high school. And all of that added up together is what makes up a Nazi movement — ringleaders, followers, and dip**ts.”
She also recognized Jordan Blue, the one and only person in the photo who did not become involved in any way. Blue is gay, and Silverman pointed out that his decision not to join in with the crowd marks the importance of intersectionality — the idea that people of all oppressed identities should see their safety as linked. “For every Jordan Blue out there, there has got to be a Jordan Bluestein who’s got his back,” she said.
“I may not be a Bluestein, but I am a Silverman. And I got your back, buddy,” she said.
Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny