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  KD MAGAZINE!  
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PART 3: (Excerpt) YIDDISHE MAMAS: THE TRUTH ABOUT THE JEWISH MOTHER
by Marnie Winston-Macauley

About the Author


Study, Mamala! How sweet it is!

Education, 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 learning. 

            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.  

To 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.             

Excellence!  “You’re 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.” 

            Although Jews 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.)   

The Rabbi 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 immune.

A Jewish Mama and her little girl walked along the beach when a gigantic wave rolled in and swept the child to sea.

“Oh, God," 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!"

Suddenly, 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.

 Jewish 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 suffering. 

            I’m 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. 

Yet, “worry and pessimism is a product of our history,” explains Rabbi Felipe Goodman

of Las Vegas, Nevada. And God knows we’ve had a lot to worry about during our 5,000 year history.

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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