Judy Gold and the Jewish Mother
By Barbara Pash
Does anyone out there not know who Judy Gold is? She is the over-6-foot-tall Emmy-award winning writer, producer and standup comedian who tells it like it is. Judy (“Call me Judy,” she shouted, so I am) lives in New York City with her two sons. She talks very fast, is very funny and has a lot to say about Jewish mothers. Many of her thoughts on the subject ended up in her 2007 book, “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.” Here’s what she says on the subject without, unfortunately, her inimitable New York accent and rapid-fire delivery.
insider: What’s your opinion of Jewish mothers?
Judy: I learned from interviewing my own mother [for the book] that her overbearing overprotection came from her own upbringing. In past generations, there was a lot of silence and secrets, of not talking about things. My generation, and I’m 45, bore the brunt of that. As a result, some of us, and I’m included, are too open with our kids. We discuss everything. We think of the Jewish mother as having no boundaries. She does, but now they’re different boundaries.
I do feel that Jewish mothers have been protecting their children for so many years [because of Jewish history]. We’ve been kicked out of so many countries. At some point, every Jewish woman’s mother or grandmother or distant relative had to protect her child [from danger]. The only thing these women [in the book] had in common was that they spoke to their children on a daily basis. Jewish mothers need to know where their kids are.
Is this behavior generational?
I do think there is less and less [of the overprotection]. There is a different attitude [among Jewish mothers] nowadays. There is less hitting, less discipline. There is less of the silence. And look around you. No one has privacy anymore. Therapy is common and accepted.
American Jews are assimilating. We haven’t experienced the tragedies of the past, the anti-Semitism to the degree of our parents. We’ve been really lucky.
Is there such a thing as Jewish guilt?
Yes, and we perfected it. Jewish guilt is a way of going around things. I love you but I can’t say it directly. It’s something in our culture. To me, I like when my kids feel guilty. I feel, OK, they have a conscience. There are appropriate times to feel guilty.
How do you feel about JAP jokes?
They’re awful. They so rub me the wrong way. You look at Jewish women who’ve changed the world — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, politician Bella Abzug, feminist Gloria Steinem.
[Comedian] Jackie Mason — I think he’s funny but only to a specific group of people. It’s just like when the African-American comedians [say things in their routines] that a white comedian cannot.
Misogyny is everywhere and it’s prevalent in Judaism. Jewish girls come in for more abuse than Jewish boys. I don’t know if it comes from being a Jewish girl and being told, “Girls don’t do this.” I grew up in a “Conservadox” synagogue where women could not carry the Torah, could not open the doors to the aron kodesh.
So, is there a myth of the Jewish mom?
I have so many feelings about that. It’s a myth and it’s true. When we see each other, when I travel and I am in a non-Jewish place and I see a Jew, I know. There’s no beard, no yarmulke. But there’s a camaraderie. There’s a connection. And that’s not a bad thing.
Does the myth have any basis in truth?
There is always a basis in truth with stereotypes. But when you take away that layer, Jewish women are people with homes and dreams. I am proud to be a Jewish mother. I would not want to be any other kind of mother. I love passing on all these traditions. I love that they will live on.
Elise Rubenstein is a married mother of two, ages 12 and 14. She is a Reisterstown resident, a member of Beth El Congregation, and a board member of both the JCC and the Women’s Department of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
“Yes, there is a myth of the Jewish mother, that they’re overbearing and overprotective. It’s not a negative, but it has that feel to it. The myth is somewhat true in that in Jewish tradition, our first priority is our family. Our culture puts family first and we want what is best for our children.
“If I look at some of my friends’ children, I see the nurturing parent in the background. We are family first and it can be construed as overbearing, but the impetus behind it is positive.”
Myth or Fact?
Bonnie Krosin is married and the mother of two, ages 3 and 5. A Stevenson resident who worships at Beth El Congregation, she is second vice president, investments, wealth management advisor at Citi Smith Barney. An active volunteer, Ms. Krosin is a board member of Jewish Vocational Services.
“When I think about the myth of the Jewish mom and how I would define it, I think that Jewish moms are perceived as being overbearing, overly protective, and that we do not know our boundaries when it comes to our children. In addition, I think Jewish moms are perceived to have their children as the only focus in their lives. In my mind, this could not be further from the truth.
“I define the Jewish mom as someone who is extremely caring, especially doting, and someone who cannot do enough for her kids. In addition, I think it has become very important for Jewish moms to be great role models for their children to not only be mommies, but to be productive whether it is professional, philanthropic or both.”