Tributes have poured in for iconic Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, who has died aged 93.
The Wisconsin-born funny funny man was surrounded by wife Jyll, family and friends when he passed away on Saturday.
Raised in New York on the Lower East Side, he died at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, his friend and lawyer Raoul Felder confirmed. “He died peacefully in his sleep with his wife and a few friends by his side,” he said.
He was having trouble breathing and had been at the hospital for two weeks.
Born Yacov Moshe Maza in 1928, he was fourth and last son of two Minsk-born Orthodox Jews – and the first child born in the US.
Coming from a long line of rabbis on his father’s side, aged 18 he became a cantor and aged 25 was ordained as a rabbi – but writing and comedy was his calling in life.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Mason said while leading a congregation: “I started telling more and more jokes, and after a while, a lot of gentiles would come to the congregation just to hear the sermons”.
Mason married his 37-year-old manager Jyll Rosenfeld in 1991, and has a daughter, Sheba Mason, born in 1985, who is also a comedian.
Paying tribute to the legendary comedian, long-time friend Raoul Felder, said: “We shall never see his like again. This was a mould that was broken. We’re going to miss him.”
Mason began writing for Jewish News in September 2020, with a Rosh Hashanah message that said the world is “run by putzes and schmucks“.He also gave his humorous take on Thanksgiving, a cure for antisemitism as the world battled Covid, and a Pesach sermon praising Donald Trump’s stance towards Israel and Jews.
His most recent piece in May of this year looked at the spike in antisemitism when there is conflict in the Middle East, saying “there are three constants in life: death, taxes and antisemitism.”
He is survived by wife Jyll Rosenfeld and daughter Sheba.
Tributes to Mason poured in from around the world, with TV judge Robert Rinder tweeting, he was “‘The Ultimate Jew,’ gone but NEVER forgotten. RIP.The American Jewish Congress paid its respects, saying: “The serious side of the late Jackie Mason, a renowned American Jewish comedian: “I have a great identification with Judaism as a religion and as a culture, and all the values that created such a great history, and the Jewish contribution to the betterment of all humanity.”
Piers Morgan wrote on Twitter: “Not many comedians make me howl with laughter throughout a performance, but he did. A wonderfully fearless, inappropriate, non-PC, ego-pricking & hilariously funny man.”
Omid Djalili also paid tribute, saying: “Currently imagining a long queue at the Pearly Gates as St. Peter makes Jackie Mason do his whole act for him. RIP Jackie”.
Al Jean, a writer on the Simpsons, added: “I feel like Krusty. We will very much miss Jackie Mason”, in reference to the death of fictional character Krusty the Clown’s father, who he regularly voiced.
Tributes also came in from the world of politics, with Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccine rollout minister tweeting: “RIP Jackie Mason one of the true greats.”
Mason, known for his switch in allegiance from Democrat to Republican – and later in life his support for President Donald Trump – received a tribute from Fox News’s host, Sean Hannity.
He wrote: “Love and prayers for our friend Jackie. Irreverent, iconoclastic, Funny, smart, and a great American Patriot. He will be missed by so many. God Speed Jackie. Love and prayers to him and his wonderful family.”
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