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  KD MAGAZINE!
Posted: Jan 1, 2008 בה", כ"ד טבת, תשס"ח
 
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PART 2: (Excerpt) YIDDISHE MAMAS: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE JEWISH MOTHER
by Marnie Winston-Macauley

About the Author

In 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. 


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. YIDDISHE MAMAS - BY MARNIE WINSTON-MACAULEYBut 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. 

            Is the answer to deny there is no such phenomenon as “The Jewish Mother?”

            No. 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.

            But 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?

            I 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 prejudice.

            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 tsouris.

             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.   Dr. 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 populations. 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.  

Grandma 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!”

“Azoi!” said Grandma. “So tell me, is that good or bad for the Jews?”

Tribalism carries not a community feeling, but fuels our maternal mission.

              So Who Then Are We? An Overview of the Ethno-type

Sacrifice: 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 mother’s job.

            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 Lewis.  

“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. 

            All 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!” 

NEXT WEEK: MORE ON “THE JEWISH MOTHER: WHO ARE WE?” 


YOU CAN ORDER FROM AMAZON Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother.  ALSO THE A Little Joy, A Little Oy: 2008 Day-to-Day Calendar

Read more articles on www.kosherdelight.com

 

 

 
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