Help me complete this Top-10 list. I’ll start with the first 5.

Opening Jokes

“When they first decided to find an honoree they called the best looking guy they knew and he said no.” (Seventy percent of the audience knows exactly where this joke is going.) “Then they called the smartest guy they knew.” (The 70 percent who already know the joke explain to the remaining 30 percent of the room where this joke is going.) “Then they called me and I said” — whole rooms chants the punchline together — “well, you’ve called me three times….” Nothing kicks off the dinner better than a well-trodden opening dinner joke. Enjoy weather- or traffic-related humor? Then you’ll love the opening monologue at Jewish dinners.

 

Acknowledgments

“Before we begin tonight’s program we want to acknowledge the presence of Mr. Joe Santino who was recently appointed Associate Director of the Parks Department.” A Jewish dinner has not officially begun until the presence of a politician, whose title you are only hearing of for the first time, is gratefully acknowledged for his honorary presence. The guy next to you whispers how the Parks Department is also in charge of the trees they use to make textbooks for yeshivahs so, tuition crisis, y’know? He could have been patrolling the local park between 18th and Broadway — we’re so honored that you chose to be here tonight.

 

Plate Sizes

You can tell a lot about an organization from its smorgasbord-to-plate ratio. More sleek modern organizations have incredible smorgasbord spreads — carving stations, sushi, pulled beef sliders — with super tiny plates. Best-case scenario, you’re fitting one dumpling on there. A real yeshivish smorgasbord, on the other hand, is basically just kugel and sesame chicken, but with massive larger-than-life plates. Enough to feed a family of eight. Why are smorg plate sizes inversely proportional to the variety of food available? I have no idea, but fill up now because I heard the main is so-so.

 

Video Montage

Please turn your attention to the video screen. “The delectable chicken you are about to eat has done so much to help our mosdos.” Cue emotional photo montage of a young farm chicken set to “V’zakenei.” With enough effort, you too can one day get featured in a video montage at an organizational dinner. Whether it’s a video of a founder, a donor, or the main course, the secret to a great video montage is the haunting background music. When it’s done you’ll be sobbing as you enjoy that delicious chicken. She did so much.

 

Minyan Rebels

“Psssst. We’re making an earlier Maariv before the main. It’s in the coatroom. Tell the attendant your ticket is 26 and he’ll let you in. There’s a chiyuv.” Nothing provides more relief and more ire from those uninvited than the early Maariv. Dinner rebels who — against explicit instructions — decide to leave before dessert may be forfeiting the commemorative sefer that will only be put out along the chocolate fountain, but they’ll beat the traffic on the way home.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 713. Thank you, Rav Ezra Neuberger, Meir Rosenfeld, Yeshivat Shaalvim