Naum Bernstein’s Jokes

My Jewish ex-father-in-law, Naum Bernstein, is 96 years old and is full of life. He has a joke for every situation. In the last decade he wrote several volumes of memoirs in Russian. One of the books was a collection of his favorite jokes and his explanations of them. I decided to retell some of the jokes from his selection.


An arithmetic teacher calls the student Rabinovich to the blackboard. “It is known that from 1 kilogram of sour cream you can make 200 grams of butter. Imagine, Rabinovich, that your father bought 2 kilograms of sour cream. How much butter can he make?”

“Five hundred grams,” Rabinovich replies.

The teacher frowns, “Rabinovich, you do not know arithmetic!”

Rabinovich answers, “Sir, you do not know my father.”


An astronomy teacher explains that in the future the Earth will lose its heat energy, continents will collide, and solar radiation will increase. In six billion years life will be extinct. A student looking really scared raises his hand and asks, “In how many years will life become extinct?”

“In about six billion years,” the teacher repeats.

“Whew,” says the student, “you got me so scared. I thought you said six million.”

Soccer Player

Two professors are chatting while watching a soccer game. The first one says, “They say that soccer players have their brains in their legs. So their heads are really empty.”

“Not quite,” the second professor replies. “The player on the right passed my exam yesterday.”

The first professor expresses interest, so the second one elaborates. “As a rule, I ask two questions. If the student gives a correct answer to one of them, he passes.”

“So, what did you ask that guy?”

“My first question was ‘What color are red blood cells?’ He answered ‘Yellow.’ That was an incorrect answer. The second question was ‘How is sulfuric acid produced?’ To this he replied, ‘I do not know,’ which was absolutely true, so he passed.”

Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin”

A Russian literature teacher asks a pupil, “Who wrote Eugene Onegin?” The pupil gets scared that he is being blamed for something and replies, “No, not me! I swear I didn’t write it!” Everyone laughs. The teacher decides that the pupil disrupted the class on purpose and asks for his father to come by.

The father arrives and after the teacher explains what happened, the father says, “Maybe he is not guilty; maybe he really didn’t write it. I doubt that he is capable of writing anything.”

The teacher is stunned and later tells the whole story in the teachers’ lounge to her colleagues. An astronomy teacher comes home and retells the story to her husband who works for the KGB. The husband comments, “Do not worry, we are on it. Three people already confessed to writing it.”

Death of an Anti-Semite

A hardcore anti-Semite was dying. As he got weaker he made a last request. He wanted to convert to Judaism. Everyone was extremely surprised, but decided not to interfere. After the conversion, his wife summoned the courage to ask him what was going on. “Do you think you were mistaken, hating Jews all your life?”

“No,” he replied happily, “But now with my death, the world will get rid of one more Jew.”


An old Jew comes to a Rabbi and asks if he can shave his beard off, because his children think that he is old-fashioned. The Rabbi tells him that by Jewish law he is not allowed to shave. The old man turns to go home when he realizes that the Rabbi himself doesn’t have a beard. He stops and asks, “Dear Rabbi, you just forbade me to shave my beard, but how come you are clean-shaven yourself?”

The Rabbi replies, “I didn’t ask anyone’s permission.”

A Bureaucrat

When Rabinovich came to a bureaucrat with a request, the bureaucrat replied, “Come back tomorrow.” Rabinovich returned the next day and received the same reply. Rabinovich was very persistent and returned day after day.

Finally, the bureaucrat lost his patience and attacked Rabinovich, “This is outrageous! Don’t you understand simple language? I keep telling you to come tomorrow and you keep coming today.”

Bathroom Tissue

The communist committee of a supermarket in the USSR received a lot of complaints about the rudeness of their salespeople. The committee decided to improve the quality of service and provided special training in which salespeople were taught politeness. The training emphasized what to do in case a particular item was unavailable. The salespeople were supposed to politely explain that the item is temporarily unavailable and to offer a substitute.

The next thing one of their salespeople said to a customer was “I am very sorry, we are temporarily out of toilet paper. May I offer some sandpaper?”

13th Floor

There is panic in an apartment on the 13th floor. The wife recognizes the sound of her husband’s approach, even though he was supposed to be on a business trip. The lover asks, “What should I do, honey?”

“What do people do in such cases? Jump out the window!”

“But we are on the 13th floor!”

“This is no time for superstition!”

Smelly Socks

A young man had smelly feet, plus he always forgot to change his socks. His girlfriend got tired of it and asked him to promise that he would always change his socks before coming to see her.

Next visit the young man smelled as bad as ever. Outraged, the girl said, “But you promised to change your socks!”

The young man answered, “I did as I promised.”

“I don’t believe you, you smell awful.”

“I was sure you wouldn’t believe me. Good thing I brought my dirty socks with me as proof.”

A Recipe for a Happy Marriage

At the 50th anniversary of a very happy couple, someone asked the husband for their secret. He said that right before the wedding they agreed that the husband would decide all the crucial and very important things, and the wife would be responsible for all minor decisions. “For example,” he continued, “yesterday I decided that the US should withdraw their troops from Iraq, and my wife decided where to buy our vacation house.”

Coffee in Bed

Two long-time girlfriends meet after several years without being in touch. “How are your children?” asks one of them.

The other replies, “My daughter is fine, she married a nice young man, who is providing for her. He also helps her with chores and even brings her coffee in bed every morning.”

“What about your son?”

“It’s a disaster. I don’t know what to do. He married a really lazy woman. Even though she’s not working, she wants him to help her with the chores. Can you imagine that? She even dared to ask him to bring her coffee in bed every morning.”


Two friends are walking along a street very late at night. Robbers attack them with guns, demanding their wallets. One of the friends asks the robbers, “Can you give me 30 seconds?” The robbers agree. He takes out $100 from his wallet and gives it to his friend, “Remember I owed you $100? I am paying back my debt in front of witnesses.”


Life is a struggle. Before lunch with hunger, after lunch with sleepiness.


A mother says to her son, “Please, close the window — it’s cold outside.”

The son replies, “Do you think it will get warmer outside if I close the window?”

Pessimist and Optimist

How are pessimists and optimists different from normal people?

A pessimist uses both a belt and suspenders, an optimist uses neither.


In a cemetery there is a beautiful monument with a picture of a bald, wrinkled old man. He is smiling, showing his perfect white teeth. His epitaph says:

Here lies Mr. X, who lived more than 100 years, lost his hair, became all wrinkled, but kept his perfect teeth. That is because he always used our company’s toothpaste.

A nearby monument has a picture of an old toothless woman with beautiful, voluminous hair. The inscription explains which brand of shampoo she used.

Many other tombstones with ads are scattered throughout the cemetery. But in the middle there is a huge mausoleum with an inscription reading:

No one is buried here and no one ever will be, because his or her parents used condoms made by our company.


A Russian man marries an American woman. After a while he writes a letter home.

My wife must be very dirty. She showers every day.


Rabinovich was asked why he didn’t attend the last committee meeting. He replied, “If I knew it was the last, I would certainly have come.”



  1. Jonathan:

    I’m sending these to Gala Rabinovich. If she can’t verify the authenticity, at least she’ll enjoy a laugh.

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  3. JBL:

    Some of these are side-splitters, but I think “A Bureaucrat” was told better by Lewis Carroll:

    Alice carefully released the brush, and did her best to get the hair into order. “Come, you look rather better now!” she said, after altering most of the pins. “But really you should have a lady’s-maid!”

    “I’m sure I’ll take *you* with pleasure!” the Queen said. “Twopence a week, and jam every other day.”

    Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, “I don’t want you to hire *me* — and I don’t care for jam.”

    “It is very good jam,” said the Queen.

    “Well, I don’t want any *today*, at any rate.”

    “You couldn’t have it if you *did* want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”

    (Apparently, this is a pun on Latin, as well — according to Martin Gardner, the word “iam” (equiv. “jam”) means “now” in the past and future tenses, but not in the present tense.)

  4. Zhyldyz:

    I know you father-in law Naum Bernstein, he is a great person. He personally gave me his Moe nasledie memoirs in Russian in 2010 and I am still reading it. I learnt so many interesting things about some facts during the World War 2 through his memoirs.

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