In ONLY KIDDING! MY FIRST BOOK OF JEWISH JOKES (Ideastrator Press), author/illustrator Sari Kopitnikoff offers jokes, riddles, and puns with a Jewish twist. Supplemented with colorful graphic illustrations, the playful jokes emphasize things like traditional foods, Jewish values, holidays, and more. ONLY KIDDING! introduces Jewish concepts in an educational, entertaining, and approachable way that will encourage young readers to find humor in their own lives.
How did you get the idea to create a book of Jewish-themed jokes?
I didn’t see any out there yet that fit what I was looking for: an educational, Jewish joke book for kids of various backgrounds. Word play and puns come easily to me, so it felt like a fun and natural next project.
How is writing jokes different from your other kinds of writing?
It’s actually not so different. In the writing I do–whether it’s creating video content, designing a printable game for a Jewish holiday, or writing a different sort of book–my objective is always to have some kind of surprising element. Kids (and adults) love the unexpected. In the joke book, that manifests as a punchline. But in the other writing I do, I try to incorporate surprise as well.
The illustrations are bold and graphic – really fun. Can you share a bit about your creative process as an illustrator?
Once I got an iPad and started playing around with the drawing app Procreate, that has become my preferred method of drawing. I usually start with a pencil brush tool on the first layer; it feels more tentative and explorative. I draw the first thing that comes to my mind. Then I lower the opacity of that layer, create a new layer, and use a calligraphy brush tool for the final piece. An inky pen, even if it’s digital, gets my creative juices flowing. I don’t spend too long on any one drawing. I know many artists who love to dive in and lose themselves in a single piece of artwork. I get more enjoyment by making a bunch of illustrations. And that’s it. Actually, there’s one more part: when I remember, I try to film the process. People tend to appreciate behind the scenes footage.
What do you hope your readers take away from ONLY KIDDING?
Perhaps more than remembering the actual jokes, I hope they learn to start playing with language and familiar words and phrases to make their own. I already heard back from some parents saying their kids are doing just that. Here’s an actual message I just got: “I have to tell you my kids love the joke book and have been trying to make up their own jokes! They figured out the formula of what a pun is and have been trying very hard to apply it.” Mission accomplished!
Why do you think humor, specifically Jewish humor, is important for young readers?
I think humor education is critical for kids. Having a sense of humor builds confidence, creativity, and critical thinking. It also helps carry kids (and adults) through the ups and downs of life. On top of that, I think it’s important for Jewish kids to read jokes that incorporate their culture and faith. I grew up reading and memorizing joke books. And I’ve learned lots of jokes about the various holidays, but usually not the Jewish ones. I’m excited for kids to laugh about familiar Jewish things in their lives.
Do you have a favorite joke from your book?
I happen to love the last chapter, which I called “Rejected Jokes”. It’s a bunch of jokes that didn’t make it to the book for various silly reasons. Like: “Did you ever hear the joke about Esther? Never mind, it’s a whole megillah.” I started doing joke-writing workshops for kids, and we have fun with this. Kids love trying to come up with jokes that they don’t want to tell you.
Sari Kopitnikoff is an experiential educator, digital artist, and content creator. She is passionate about creating games, activities, shows, and virtual challenges that bring Judaism to life. For the last several years, she’s taught elementary, middle, and high school, but her creativity and energy have reached beyond the classroom, bringing the sparks of Judaism to all parts of the world. Sari began That Jewish Moment in 2014: a colorful, meaningful, and heartfelt collection of drawings and programs that showcase the spirit and beauty of Jewish life. Contact her (and find her best-selling books, free printables, and games) at thatjewishmoment.com, and find her on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook, @thatjewishmoment.