As retold by
After months of negotiation with the authorities, a Talmudist from Odessa is
granted permission to visit Moscow. He boards the train. At the next stop a
young man get on and sits next to him.
The scholar looks at him and thinks, "This fellow doesn't look like a
peasant, and if he isn't a peasant he probably comes from this district. If he
comes from this district, then he must be Jewish because this is, after all, a
Jewish district. On the other hand, if he is a Jew, where could he be going? I'm
the only Jew in our district who has permission to travel to Moscow. Ah, but
just outside Moscow there is a little village called Samvet, and Jews don't need
special permission to go there. But why would he be going to Samvet? He's
probably going to visit one of the Jewish families there, but how many Jewish
families are there in Samvet? Only two - the
Bernsteins and the Steinbergs. The Bernsteins are a terrible family, and a nice
looking fellow like him must be visiting the Steinbergs. But why is he going?
The Steinbergs have only daughters, so maybe he's their son-in-law.
But if he is, then which daughter did he marry? They say that Sarah married a
nice lawyer from Budapest, and Esther married a businessman from Zhitomer, so it
must be Sarah's husband. Which means that his name is Alexander Cohen, if I'm
not mistaken. But if he comes from Budapest, with all the anti-Semitism they
have there, he must have changed his name. What's the
Hungarian equivalent of Cohen? Kovacs. But if they allowed him to change his
name, he must have some special status. What could it be? A doctorate from the
So the scholar turns to the young man and says, "How do you do, Dr.
"Very well, thank you," he replies. "But how you know my
And the scholar explained: "It was obvious."