(TIMES OF ISRAEL) -- Jackie Mason, who died Saturday at 93, did not always set out to be a comedian. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 30 that he left behind the Orthodox rabbinate for irreverent open-mic nights.
Mason, born Yacov Moshe Maza to Orthodox parents, was one of the last survivors of the Borscht Belt comedy circuit that propelled a host of Jewish funnymen, including Jerry Stiller and Rodney Dangerfield, from the Catskills resorts that catered to Jewish vacationers into the American popular imagination.
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His comedy, delivered in a distinctive cadence inflected with the Yiddish of his childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, offered a window into the American Jewish psyche for non-Jews and, for Jews, held up a mirror that reflected their complicated relationship with their Americanness.