PART 2: (Excerpt)
YIDDISHE MAMAS: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE JEWISH MOTHER
About the Author
Part One of Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish
Mother, by Marnie Winston-Macauley, we looked at how the “image”
of the Jewish mother has eroded over the last century, as media
is filled with negative stereotypes.
The very word calls up an odious Stepford image. Jackie Mason,
who became a hit with his show “The World According to Me,” has
taken the “stereotyping” heat.
But he’s the first to defend it
by saying, “If I were Margaret Mead, they’d call it
anthropology.” The great
sadness is this negative, unbalanced stereotype is a dangerous
cheat, that has turned many a Jewish Mother away from claiming
many of the magnificent characteristics we do share.
the answer to deny there is no such phenomenon as “The Jewish
Just as each group shares belief systems, attitudes, and values,
we hold commonalities that not only bind us together, but are
evident in thinking and behavior.
how do we bridge the gap between the loathsome cartoon cut-out
image and the very real characteristics that we, as part of a
great tradition, share?
prefer to use the term ethno-typing. Ethno-typing
carries no positive or negative judgment. Like an examination of
any ethnic group, it allows us to look at our history, our
biology, our values and characteristic traits, without
Tribalism is more evidence
that we share an ethno-type. Many of us, world over, simply
feel a little more comfortable, safer, and freer with others
with whom we share a common background, including a history of
It’s in the dna! Four
Jewish mothers who lived 1,000 years ago in Europe are the
ancestors of 40 percent of all Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern
European Jews) alive today! This remarkable finding was
reported by an international team of researchers in 2006.
Doron Behar of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
Behar and geneticist Karl Skorecki, with worldwide
collaborators, sampled DNA from 11,452 people from 67
The researchers found that the mtDNA of some 3.5
of the 8 million Ashkenazi Jews in the world (among 13 million)
can be traced back to only four women carrying a distinct mtDNA,
virtually absent in other populations.
Behar and Skorecki's team
refers to this phenomenon as a "founder effect” – when one or a
small number of people have a huge number of descendants.
Tribal pride intact, we take on the whole of us, carrying that
pride – and humiliation– to all Jews. When New York serial
killer, David Berkowitz (Son of Sam), was finally captured, I
recall my mother saying, “Thank God, he was adopted!”
Even today, we share in the nakhes when a Jew “breaks
through.” Decades ago it was John Garfield, then Tony Curtis. I
heard it growing up. “Did you know that “Lauren Bacall’s real
name is Persky, and her cousin is Shimon Peres?!” Einstein,
Bernard Baruch, Arthur Miller – all were stars – Jewish stars.
Their inclusiveness fascinated and delighted our mothers. Hey,
they were family.
Markowitz, an immigrant, was extremely proud of the
Americanization of David, her grandson. One afternoon, David
burst into the house, yelling: “Bubbe! The Yankees won today!”
Grandma. “So tell me, is that good or bad for the Jews?”
carries not a community feeling, but fuels our maternal mission.
So Who Then Are We? An Overview of the
The Family: Kidfirst Comes First!
The Jewish mother will stand by her
child under all circumstances. Her love is constantly available
and unswerving. No shlep is too much of a sacrifice.
Historically and religiously, the children have been the Jewish
Melanie Strug, mother of Olympic star Kerri Strug, describes her
home when the children were growing up as a “cafeteria.” As all
were involved in athletics, she was forever shlepping. “I
picked one up at six, got another at seven, then at eight,” she
says. Our home life was centered around the kids. I’m a Jewish
mother in the sense that the children came first.”
“She resides in Brooklyn,” joked Binyamin Jolkovsy,
Editor-in-Chief of Jewishworldreview.com. “But she’s selfless,
puts her children above herself, sees her role as nurturer and
molder of character and conscience. That’s how the Jewish
mothers in my environment are and I hope each and everyone lives
up to that ‘stereotype."
The Jewish Mother ethno-type is not “minimalist.” Children are
not merely given opportunities, but are often pampered, to bring
joy to both mother and child.
“Who puts a child in costume on a plane and privately buys out a
candy store for the passengers to give to your
five-year-old so she won’t miss trick-or-treating?” laughs Rona
Ginott, wife of the late David Ginott, and niece by marriage to
the late Israeli child psychologist, Haim Ginott.
“The Jewish woman doesn’t even pretend her husband is the boss.
Italians and Greeks do. If mommy’s not happy, nobody’s happy,”
quips Mallory Lewis, daughter of the late puppeteer, Shari
“She is the glue that keeps the
family together and makes it successful. The Jewish mother is
very committed to her children and has her foot up her husband’s
butt,” says Dr. Eileen Warshaw, Executive Director of The
Jewish Heritage Center of the Southwest
Commitment to family may be sacrosanct, but peace and harmony?
That’s another matter. Our ethno-type often includes, what to
outsiders, may seem peculiar. In my own family, there was the
odd co-existence of absolute loyalty and constant kvetching
about various family members. There was the spendthrift who
couldn’t pay his mortgage, but wore silk underwear. The health
nut who sent her sputum to the Mayo clinic for analysis. And who
could forget the miser who ordered half the menu, stuck you with
the check – and took home the leftovers.
families have them, but the Jewish mother talks, debates, and
argues – sometimes fiercely. To many non-Jews, these scenes
might lead to permanent exile. But to the Jewish
mother,“letting it out,” then coming together in passionate
forgiveness is perfectly normal.
Mr. Mandelbaum: “Why don’t the
leaders of the world realize that nations can solve their
problems if they just live together like one big family.”
Mrs. Mandelbaum: “Bite your tongue!”
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