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Redemption through foolishness: The Wise Men of Chelm

Long before the rise in popularity of alternative medicine, it was known that laughter is good for the soul. In Jewish culture, humour has been more than therapeutic – in a very real sense it has been a lifesaver. Perhaps the suffering that underlies the humour that makes one laugh from the depth of one’s soul – the kind of laugh that draws tears and provides an incredible feeling of relief and rejuvenation when it’s spent – is also the source of its strength.

In Freud’s Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious he notes: “The occurrence of self-criticism as a determinant may explain how it is that a number of the most apt jokes… have grown up on the soil of the Jewish popular life. They are stories created by Jews and directed against Jewish characteristics… I do not know whether there are many other instances of a people making fun to such a degree of its own character.”

From Wednesday, June 11 to Thursday, July 3, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre will present The Wise Men of Chelm, a collection of stories culled from Eastern European Jewish Folklore, set to music by Eli Rubinstein and directed by Bryna Wasserman. Chelm is a mythical town populated by foolish people and thought by some to be the home of the famous schlemiel, that stock character of Jewish anecdotes. While the main characters are foolish, they convey the lasting wisdom of being able to laugh at oneself.

Supertitles make the original Yiddish easy to understand for everyone.

Showtimes are Monday to Thursday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 9:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm (except Sunday, June 15 at 1:30 pm). $25 - $47 (group rates available).

Info: 514-739-7944 or

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