A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 30, 2015
Jewish Telegram ("Start worrying—details to follow")

It’s an old stereotype that Jews worry a lot. A joke is told that the typical ‘Jewish telegram” reads:

“Start worrying. Details to follow.”

The joke has been cited in print since at least 1979. Although people don’t send telegrams anymore, the classic joke is still told.


Google Books
The Brookings Bulletin
Volumes 13-15
1979
Pg. 85:
In all, said (Samuel—ed.) Halperin, “Much of the rhetoric for and against the department of education is hopelessly overblown.” He compared predictions of dire consequences with “a Jewish telegram,” which reads: “Start worrying. Letter to follow.”

Google Books
A Guide for the Powerless:
And Those Who Don’t Know Their Own Power

By Samuel Halperin
Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership
1981
Pg. 35:
Don’t send unclear messages in the form of the proverbial “Jewish telegram:” “Start worrying! Letter follows.”

23 March 1981, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH), “To the Jews, brothers are not heavy” by Darrell Holland, pg. 15-A, col. 1:
A Jewish telegram is one that reads, “Start worrying. letter follows.”

That’s how Jewish writer Leonard Fein began a magazine article on the American Jewish community, to emphasize Jews’ past sufferings and their likely responses to trouble.

29 November 1985, The New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), “Are these the ‘best of times’ for U.S. Jews?” by Patrick Farrell (Gannett News Service), pg. D1, col. 3:
“And there’s a temperamental tendency to worry. You know the classic old joke: The definition of a Jewish Telegram is one that reads, ‘Start worrying. Reasons will follow.’”
(Charles Silberman, a Jewish journalist and author.—ed.)

Google Books
28 April 1986, New York magazine, “Inside Jews for Jesus” by Jan Hoffman, pg. 47, col. 1:
The old joke about the Jewish telegram — “Start worrying, reasons to follow” — has a measure of truth.

Google News Archive
19 December 1988, Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal, “Now Israel must face the music” by Ken Adelman, pg. A10. col. 3:
While in Israel this week, I learned of a typical Jewish telegram: “Start worrying.” Paragraph. “Letter to follow.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Start worrying : details to follow : an insider’s irreverent (but loving) view of American Jewish life
Author: Albert Vorspan
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : UAHC Press, ©1991.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

Google News Archive
14 September 1992, Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal, “Finally, good news from Holy Land” by Ken Adelman, pg. A8, col. 3:
JERUSALEM—Seldom comes much good news from.the Holy Land—the classic Jewish telegram reads, start worrying! Letter to follow” —but now even the grumpiest of Israelis must succumb to a sliver of hope.

The Villager (New York, NY)
Mother’s Day mission: Finding the will to chill
April 30, 2015
BY LEKNORE SKENAZY | Mother’s Day is usually marked by burned toast, dandelion bouquets and crayon drawings of mommies and children with hearts all around them.

It is a great day.

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be giving a talk at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on how come mommies feel so worried all the time. Not that moms haven’t always been worried for their kids. Of course we have. Jewish moms (like me) are famous for it. In fact, the old joke is, “Did you hear about the Jewish telegram? ‘START WORRYING. DETAILS TO FOLLOW.’ ”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Thursday, April 30, 2015 • Permalink