Cross-country friends share good times &mdash and j. jokes

Since spending a year in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, Leonard Goldstein always appreciates the opportunity for a good laugh.

But, just to make sure, his buddy Bernie Badler of Petaluma clips his favorite jokes from j. the Jewish news weekly and sends them along to his pal in Miami.

“I have a good knowledge of Yiddish, and the jokes with Yiddish connotations are so fabulous, so typical,” said Badler, 82. “The younger generation doesn’t appreciate Yiddish. But it’s such a warm, friendly language.”

The 88-year-old Goldstein, however, does enjoy a good Yiddish joke, and he’s glad Badler is sending them his way.

Badler, a former salesman, B-24 bomber pilot and longtime Air Force reservist first picked up j. after his wife died, hoping to find companionship through the Such a Match section. Instead, he found a good laugh.

And while he’s partial to Yiddish jokes, he does make exceptions. Here’s one of Badler’s favorites:

A doctor is lecturing a group of elderly patients about the importance of a good diet.
“You need to avoid salt!” he barks. “And cholesterol! And trans-fatty acids! But who can tell me the most destructive food ever made?”
A little old Jewish man raises his hand.
“Wedding cake!”

But nothing beats a good Yiddish joke:

An elderly Jewish man is called to testify at a trial. The prosecuting attorney asks him his name.
“I’m Abraham Cohen.”
“And where are you from, Mr. Cohen?”
“Utica, N.Y.”
“And how old are you?”
No answer.
“I said, Mr. Cohen, how old are you?”
Still no answer.
So, at this point, the judge, himself a Jew, decides to interject.
“Mr. Cohen, kin ahora, how old are you?
“I’m 85 years old.”

Swapping old jokes, however, is only part of the fun shared by Badler and Goldstein. A couple of months ago, for instance, Badler talked his friend into attending this year’s Air Force bomber squadron reunion (the two, in fact,

met through bomber alumni organizations). So Goldstein flew to San Francisco and the two drove there in Badler’s pickup truck. It was a bit of a drive, as the reunion was in Rapid City, S.D.

On the way back, Badler dropped Goldstein off at Denver’s airport. Then, feeling a little restless, he drove the last 1,023 miles back home from Grand Junction in one day.

“I’m a good driver. I was a good pilot and now I’m a good driver,” Badler said with a laugh.

Perhaps Goldstein’s military hitch might have been more uneventful if Badler, who flew more than 50 missions over southern Europe, was his pilot.

Instead, Goldstein, a radio man, was shot down over southern Italy, and taken prisoner toward the end of the war.

As a Jewish prisoner in Germany, Goldstein’s fellow crewmembers made sure to call him only by his nickname, “Goldie.” But, one day, one of them let his full name slip. The Nazi guards, amazingly, didn’t seem to care. But other American prisoners (“rednecks” in Badler’s estimation) gave him a hard time.

Badler clips the j. jokes section every few weeks, and keeps sending them along. Sometimes, he even submits a joke or two for consideration.

And, in perusing the Such a Match section, he hopes to maybe, just maybe, eat some of that destructive wedding cake one more time.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.