THE UJA Federation of New York is holding a cartoon caption contest. Here’s the cartoon:
Go to their Facebook page to see people’s suggestions — I know this sounds churlish, but almost all of the hundreds of entries are duds. More than a few pun (uch) on the word “shofar,” as in “shofar so good.” Some resurrect ancient jokes (“Just when I got used to writing ’5773′ on my checks.”). Others are just baffling.
One problem here, just as it often is with the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, and even some published cartoons, is that the cartoon pretty much works WITHOUT a caption. For example:
You can remove the caption above and not lose anything.
If that’s the case, you need a caption that takes you beyond the “pshat” (the surface level) of the drawing (Jewish new year meets secular new year) , and find a “drash” — that is, a caption that uses the concept to comment on some additional aspect of Jewish life, city life, Times Square, or the new year. Some of the UJA entries get this, with mixed results:
“I don’t care how into new year’s you are, you still need a seat ticket to enter”
“No I won’t blow your shofar, Mr. Weiner!”
“Next year I’m going to the early Minyan”
The first one is based on an old (and tired) joke, the second one makes a cheap dig without building on the logic of the Times Square scene. The third one gets closest to cleverness, IMHO. It’s a caption about something, in this case the insider’s complaint about a proliferation of minyanim (prayer services) at active synagogues — e.g. one for traditionalists, another for the happy clappy crowd, a third for young families.
So what would my entry be (assuming I was allowed to enter — the contest is for New York residents only)? I would have gone with, “I have GOT to start showing up at Ritual Committee meetings.”
To me that builds on the logic of the panel (old ritual meets new), and makes a joke, familiar to anyone involved in shul politics, about the tension between traditionalists and innovators. I know of synagogues that have fought multi-year battles over whether to include guitars during family services, or to allow men to daven in shirt sleeves. With my caption, the cartoon becomes a reflection of a traditionalist’s worst nightmare: miss one policy meeting, and the whole place slides down the slippery slope to goyishe naches.
Thank you. I’ll be here all week.
UPDATE: One other, obvious caption occurs to me: “Oh, gut yontiff, rabbi! We thought your sabbatical ended AFTER Rosh Hashanah!” That’s a not bad “while the cat’s away” joke, and accounts for the kosher guy’s amazement at the spectacle. There’s a tradition of congregants getting away with stuff while rabbis are on sabbatical or their customary August vacations.