Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"Goyim Sell Their Children for a Bottle of Whiskey" Bieganski Interview # 17


In the summer of 1965 I had my first contact with a rash of Polak jokes that lasted for a number of years until they were replaced in Canada by Newfie jokes. And then Paki jokes. Polak jokes, like Newfie jokes, made fun of country bumpkins. Some jokes were very funny. A few were very mean but they rarely matched the later Paki jokes in that quality.
Although I first heard the Polak jokes at a Jewish summer camp in August '65 I didn't think that there was anything particularly Jewish about them in origin. They were about "Polaks" but they were not by anyone writing in as a Jew. My mother once lectured me about them. She didn't like them at all because her parents were from Poland. I guess that Polish Jews were smeared by these jokes to some extent but I didn't think that there was anything Jewish about them in their object either.

If Polish Jews were looked down upon it was because they were "greenies" as my father would say, meaning greenhorns, immigrants from the OLD country.


When I was in grade 12, I think, I was in a class with a few non-Jewish guys and they would joke back and forth with some of the Jewish guys about being "goys". I didn't know these guys well but a year or two later I used to run into one of them, D--- C-------, at university.


One winter's day in the early seventies, we were walking outside together from one class to another and talking about music. He said he like the blues. I wanted to say something funny that would fit in with the kind of humour I had seen these guys use in high school so I said "That's because you're a goy." I said this in an ironic way, purely as a joke but he got offended and asked me never to say that again. And I still cringe a bit when I think of it.


A few years later, I think I used this joke again in similar way with a guy I'd met at my summer job. He also got offended and asked me to not say that again. And, for the most part, I don't think I have. We had been very friendly and continued to be so. I visited his home and went out with him and his girl friend.


Once, though, later, in the early 1980s, I was sharing a house with three other people. One girl was Jewish and had a non-Jewish boyfriend. He was a regular visitor and one day he and I were sitting together in the living room while she was getting ready to go out. We were watching SCTV, the well-known comedy show, on TV.


A skit with the two "hosers", Doug and Bob Mackenzie, came on and it was very funny. These two guys were supposed to be rural bumpkins from northern Canada who lived for beer and cigarettes and said "eh" at the end of every sentence.


I said that we didn't call them hosers; we called them "goyim". I thought that was hilarious. But I don't think Bruce did and I was very embarrassed because I didn't mean that all non-Jews were uncouth louts. The hosers do, in many ways, typify what I think is meant by the word "goyim". But while they are drunk and irresponsible but loveable, the latter have a tendency to be violent as well.


I remember wondering what "goy" really meant and trying to justify its use in my own mind. A possible answer seemed to be that the Jews in Eastern Europe had been surrounded by peasants who were uncultured and had religious prejudices against Jews which sometimes, even often, led to violence.


When I was about 14, my friend Norm used to tell me jokes made by people like David Steinberg, then a young comedian from Winnipeg and Mordechai Richler, a novelist from Montreal. I know that he used the word Polaks. And I think he told me a joke by David Steinberg that something to do with goyim being ready to sell their children for a bottle of whiskey. And I used to think that this idea of people to whom whiskey was so important was very funny. Even though I didn't know anyone like that myself.


Informant was a male from Toronto whose maternal grandparents were Jews from Poland and whose paternal grandparents were Jews from Hungary

THE BACKGROUND on these interviews, that is, when they were conducted, who the informants were, and why I post them, see here.

"I No Longer Practice Anything Except Reciting Yizkor and Lighting Yahrzeit Candles for My Parents"# 11

"I Have Always Been Afraid to Get Close to Any 'Real' Jews"# 12

Shiksa # 13

"Germans. I don't Like Hearing the Language" #14

"Those Shoes Kick My People to Death" #15

"Why Get Your Hopes Up?" # 16

"Goyim Sell Their Children for a Bottle of Whiskey" # 17


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Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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