Can somebody please tell me when Jewish mothers turned into a comedic punch line?
How did their nurturing get confused for nagging? Who drew the boundaries between protective and overprotective and where did they cross it?
It must have been sometime between carpool and camp because it definitely didn’t happen on my watch.
I’ve always held the most irreverent respect for Jewish mothers; and not in a diagnosable Stockholm Syndrome sort of way either.
Jewish mothers are literally the keepers of our faith. Through their child-bearing capacities and the Mishnaic matrilineality precept (Kiddushin 3:12), Jewish continuity is entirely dependent on them. And the women I know take their duties seriously. Just try to tell one of them that you are marrying a shiksa (derogatory word for non-Jewish girl) I double dare you!
Jewish women are also entrusted with the added responsibility of the home sphere, the holiest of them all. Between kashruth observance and the laws of family purity, a woman’s job is never done. This holds true in this generation more than ever with the prevalence of CEO mom, the 2.0 version of “Super Mom,” (sleep not included.) A well-deserved shout-out to Sheryl Sandberg, the prototype for this model, who proves it is possible to raise two children and rule the world simultaneously.
My own mother knew this a generation earlier. She learnt it from her mother. They both worked in the field of education, not because they had to but because they wanted to. They believed that knowledge was power and they touched countless lives promoting that message, all before dinner time which they never missed and seldom, outsourced.
Perhaps they both fall under the stereotypical image of a Jewish mother: They worry too much; they express love through food; and my mother convinced my brother he wanted to be a doctor from the time he was in the womb.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as my brother completes his first year of med school and I finish working off the calories of the second Pesach seder meal, I ask you- is that really a crime punishable by parody? I don’t think so.
I’ve drawn some of the greatest inspiration in my life from Jewish mothers.
For instance, the mother of three children whose eldest was gripped by the merciless claws of cancer and torn away forever, who shed tears for a moment and then soldiered on for her two remaining children - from her, I learnt courage and resilience.
From the hassidic woman, who at the tender age of 19 gave birth to her first child and then spent the next 24 years pregnant to eventually be called “mameh” by a total of 17 children and “bubby” by many, many more - from her I learned motherhood is not just a noun, it’s an active verb, a lifestyle and a vocation.
From that same woman who experienced the shanda (shame) of seeing her middle son go to jail, yet still welcomed “her king” home after what she jokingly refers to as an “extended vacation” - she also taught me how unconditional a mother’s love can really be.
From the single mother of four who worked both the day shift and the night shift to make ends meet after her husband left her, yet still found a way to attend all her children’s birthdays, school plays and soccer practices with a smile and some cheer - from her I learned the strongest muscle is in the heart.
And finally from the aspiring conservative politician, who marched alongside her openly gay daughter at a Pride parade - from her I learnt that a Jewish mother can't help but kvell (feel endless pride.)
The Jewish women I have crossed in my lifetime have approached their roles as Jewish mothers with such gravitas that to me it is no laughing matter.
Yes, they have been overbearing, overprotective and overzealous about meal time, sometimes in a satirically comical way. But they have done it with love.
On this Mother’s Day and every day, celebrate your mother with the same love she has given you. Take a moment to laugh with her and not at her.
So, you live with more guilt than OJ Simpson - so what?! That’s a small price to pay for a lifetime of love and a second-serving of apple pie!
Margaux Chetrit is the founder and president of Three Matches, an international dating agency. Her insights on love and sex are inspired by a career in diplomacy, a panoply of academic degrees and ex-boyfriends. For more of her musings, please visit: www.threematches.com or follow her at www.twitter.com/threematches and www.facebook.com/threematches.