PART 3: (Excerpt) YIDDISHE MAMAS:
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE JEWISH MOTHER
About the Author
Study, Mamala! How sweet it is!
particularly Jewish education is not only a mantra, deeply
embedded in Jewish
history and tradition, but a
celebration! A religious expectation for young boys in the
shtetl, it also represented the very future of Judaism; a way to
keep the boys and girls (who also learned the rudiments and were
drilled by Mama in her Jewish duties as baleboste),
safely in the fold.
Picture it. A 19th
century mama, weeping with joy, dressed in little more than
rags, carrying her six-year-old son in a prayer shawl, along
with an apron filled with cake, honey, nuts and raisins, for his
first day of cheder. After his first “Aleph,” the
goodies are given out, with the child of the hour at the head of
the line to celebrate his special day –the start of his formal
Such an occasion! One that set
the Jewish community apart. When 90% of the world was
illiterate, the typical Jewish male over age six was learning to
read and write, in at least three languages, including Hebrew,
Yiddish or Ladino.
Early on, while the
men were studying, someone had to inspire, support, keep
Kosher, light candles, raise the children with values, milk the
cows, earn a living, and make sure the house didn’t collapse!
Like Rachel, wife of the great Rabbi Akiva who sacrificed when
he left for years to study Torah, the Jewish mother sees
education as both a sacred obligation – and revels in the nakhes
of raising learned children.
Today, the dedication
to education, remains of prime importance, but there has been a
shift to secular learning, representing a critical cultural
change. Where once the learned Jewish scholar was prized, with
assimilation in America, many Jewish mothers look to the
professions more than religious training – as status and
success, or “making it,” in the New World.
me, school was most important. I thought you can’t make a
career out of gymnastics,” says –
Melanie Strug, mother of Kelli Strug, who, in addition to
winning Olympic Gold, holds a B.A. in Communications and a
Masters Degree from Stanford.
Does this dedication
work in the secular world? You bet. There are more Jewish
doctors than Jewish children on prison work release.
Absolutely Certainly Your Progeny Is Perfect!” -- Mallory Lewis.
“I was raised
with the compulsion to do the best!” says Holocaust hero and
author, Dr. Ruth Gruber. “‘Why didn’t you get 100?’ I was asked,
if I got a 99.”
“I could do no
wrong,” says Theodore Bikel. “According to my mother, I was a
genius!” He adds that her expectation of perfection “ was wrong
... we all do wrong.”
represent 1/4 of 1% of the world's population, we have won about
20% of all Nobel Prizes awarded since its inception in 1901 and
yes, some, like Rosalyn Yallow have been Jewish mothers.
I Don’t Get
(Much) Satisfaction, or ... The Kvetch
There’s a correlation
between the expectation of excellence – and satisfaction.
Our history colored by adversity, apprehension, exile, and fear
of being sandbagged by “the evil eye,” brings with it the
constant expectation of disappointment. Many of us rain on
parades in advance. Better we should expect the worse –so when
the rain comes, we’ve already put up the umbrella.
“[The Jewish mother]
finds something wrong ... with everything,” remarks Judy Gold. “
If we’re leaving for a trip tomorrow, she’ll say: ‘ Tomorrow!
There’ll be the worst traffic of the world!’ If you suggest
brunch ... ‘Go out for brunch? It’s too crowded. No
one’s going out.’” (Now, that’s some logic.)
was giving his usual sermon, and sent the congregation home with
a request. “Our synagogue is collected goods for the needy.
Please bring anything you have in your homes you can spare.”
Suddenly a mother of
five calls out: “Excuse me, Rabbi, but does tsouris count?”
Even God is not
A Jewish Mama
and her little girl walked along the beach when a gigantic wave
rolled in and swept the child to sea.
lamented Mama, her face toward heaven. "This is my only baby!
The love, the joy of my joy! Please God! Bring her back to me
and I'll go to synagogue and pray every day!"
another gigantic wave rolled in and deposited the girl back on
the sand safe and sound.
Mama looked up
and said, " ... she had on a hat ...”
What? Me Worry: High Anxiety – Mama’s Law.
mothers suffer from terminal anxiety. – Judy Gold
Forget Murphy’s Law.
Chances are his real name was Murphosky and his mama taught him:
“If anything can go wrong, it will.”
I can still remember
my late mother’s face, peering out of a window at 1a.m. if I
wasn’t home from a date. She gave me “the basic silent look” for
two days which I suppose she felt was equal to her two hours of
a worrier. When my son was two,
his pediatrician wrote on his chart: “MOTHER: LUNATIC” which
could be due to the fact that I thought a hernia in a
two-year-old might be malignant. It’s in the DNA. The
ethno-type no doubt contains a W-strand – for Worry.
and pessimism is a product of our history,” explains Rabbi
of Las Vegas, Nevada. And God
knows we’ve had a lot to worry about during our 5,000 year
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