Yid­dishe Mamas: The Truth about the Jew­ish Mother

Marnie Win­ston-Macauley
  • From the Publisher
April 25, 2012
We’ve all heard them. The Jew­ish moth­er stereo­types, borne of ridicule, height­ened by Borscht belt comics, por­trayed in media. And so, we have become the car­toon.” The pro­to­type of the overzeal­ous, over-involved, over-wor­ried, over-pro­tec­tive, over-nur­tur­ing, over-bear­ing pres­ence that has invad­ed pop­u­lar cul­ture.

In every stereo­type, there is an ele­ment of truth. I recall my late moth­er rip­ping the heads off pho­tos of boys who dumped me. My grand­moth­er’s entire rea­son for liv­ing after the death of my grand­fa­ther, was to move in” — with us. From her mis­sion came sto­ries and anec­dotes only a Carl Rein­er could write

Yes, my grand­moth­er sound­ed self­ish. But then we look beyond at Gram. A woman who bribed bor­der guards to get to Amer­i­ca before the Nazis took over, leav­ing her birth fam­i­ly behind — forever.

This is why I need­ed to look before the peri­od, at the back­grounds, reli­gion, and prin­ci­ples of these women. The joke had a pre­de­ces­sor. And with­out exam­i­na­tion, the mean­ing — and truth — is lost.

Many Jew­ish Moth­er stereo­types are about intru­sion, child-first suf­fo­ca­tion, lack of bound­aries. Yet these traits” are also the very qual­i­ties: pro­tec­tion, edu­ca­tion, nour­ish­ment and sur­vival, dur­ing pogroms, through­out the Holo­caust and oth­er incal­cu­la­ble calami­ties, that have kept us alive and intact these 5,000 years.

In this work, I hope you will see the spe­cial soul of Jew­ish moth­er­hood through the sac­ri­fices, the extra­or­di­nary belief in the future through our chil­dren that Jew­ish women over the cen­turies have pos­sessed. You will also read fas­ci­nat­ing facts, anec­dotes and yes, humor that was vital and kept us going while we were run­ning — always run­ning. Jew­ish women, sim­ply — are funny.

Discussion Questions