Jews often disagree with other Jews. “Two Jews three opinions”—that is, if you ask two Jews about something, you’;ll get three opinions—is a popular saying.
“Some one has said that ‘wherever you have two Russians you have three opinions.’” was cited in print in 1905. “Zangwill is credited with saying two Jews you will find three opinions” was cited in 1923. “Schecter is credited with having said, ‘Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions’” was cited in 1934. The versions involving Russians and Jews are probably related; it’s not known who first made the observation.
A related joke goes that if you have two Jews stranded on a desert island, they will build three synagogues—one for each of them, and one synagogue that no one will visit on principle. This joke has been cited in print since at least 1957 and 1984.
25 November 1905, New York (NY) Times, “White on Russia’s Peril,” pg. 4, col. 2:
“Some one has said that ‘wherever you have two Russians you have three opinions.’”
(Andrew D. White, former ambassador to Russia.—ed.)
Peace and Bread in Time of War
By Jane Addams
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
With our Anglo-Saxon crispness of expression we are prone to be amused at the Russian’s inveterate habit of discussion and to quote with tolerant contempt the old saying: “Two Russians — three opinions,” without stopping to reflect that the method has in practice worked out excellently for the self-governing administration of village affairs throughout an enormous territory.
12 January 1923, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, “Marginal Notes” by I. G., pg. 17, col. 2:
When Two Are One.
Zangwill is credited with saying two Jews you will find three opinions. I suppose the other fellow’s wife agrees with her lord and master.
The Future of Judaism in America.
A Syllabus for Study Groups
By Eugene Kohn
New York, NY: National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs of the United Synagogue of America
Schecter is credited with having said, “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions.”
25 May 1934, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, “Greetings from Mount Royal Lodge No. 729,” pg. 2, col. 2:
The proverbial: “Where there are two Jews, there are three opinions” belies the assertion that we are a united people.
The American Mercury
Israel Zangwill once observed that when two Jews meet, three opinions are bound to prevail.
Google News Archive
7 November 1947, The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, “The Jewish Quiz Box” by Rabbi Samuel J. Fox, pg. 12, col. 3:
Of course it’s like the old cliche which ex pressed the truism that when we come across two Jews we find three opinions.
Pioneers, Peddlers, and Tsadikim
By Ida Libert Uchill
Denver, CP: Sage Books
The Jews had a universal failing best expressed by the venerable story of two Jews on a desert island who built three synagogues, one for each of them. The third? “That’s the one we don’t go to.”
By Paul L. Maier
Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications
“Two Jews, three opinions,” went the aphorism, and Pilate thought it sober truth.
OCLC WorldCat record
Arguing with God : a Jewish Tradition.
Author: Anson Laytner
Publisher: Lanham : Jason Aronson, Inc., 1977.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : English
As an old proverb puts it, ‘Two Jews, three opinions.’ In the long, rich, tumultuous history of the Jewish people, this characteristic contentiousness has often been extended even unto Heaven. Arguing with God is a highly original and utterly absorbing study that skates along the edge of this theological thin ice_at times verging dangerously close to blasphemy_yet also a source of some of the most poignant and deeply soulful expressions of human anguish and yearning.
Civilization and the Jews
By Abba Solomon Eban
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
It has often been said that wherever you have two Jews together, you are likely to hear three opinions. There is a popular jest about two Jews who were stranded for many decades on a desert island. By the time they were rescued, they had built three magnificent synagogues, one for each of them to pray in, and a third which both refused ,on principle, to attend.
OCLC WorldCat record
Two Jews, three opinions : a collection of twentieth-century American Jewish quotations
Author: Sandee Brawarsky; Deborah Mark
Publisher: New York : Perigee Books, 1998.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed
History or humor, the diaspora or deli, the topics covered in this wide-ranging compendium of quotations (many never before published) provide a remarkable view of Jewish life in America - in all its variety and contradiction - during the past 100 years. It has been a century in which Jews have had a tremendous impact on America - and in which America has had a great impact on the Jewish community.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Monday, October 27, 2014 • Permalink