After months of negotiation with the authorities, a
Talmudist from Odessa was granted permission to visit
Moscow. He boarded the train and found an empty seat.
At the next stop a young man got on and sat next to
him. The scholar looked at the young man and thought:
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. Ahh? 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 University for sure. At this point
the scholar turns to the young man and says, "How do
you do, Dr. Kovacs?"
"Very well, thank you, sir." answered the startled
passenger. But how is it that you know my name?"
"Oh," replied the Talmudist, "it was obvious."