Jiddish Mamme – Myth, idol and scary

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‘Do you know the difference between an Italian mum and a Jewish mum?’ The Italian mum dares: ‘If you don’t eat the soup, I’ll kill you.’ The Jewish mum however threatens the child with the words: “If you don’t eat your soup, I’ll kill myself!’

Food supply for Jewish mums – here at Mehane Yehuda in Jerusalem (Credit: GPO)

This is only one of the many jokes about Jewish mothers who mastered stirring up the tingling sensation of guilt with a single facial expression, one sceptical look or their anything but subtle criticism. After all, this is what they are famous for, aren’t they?!

Jewish mothers love to focus and fuss about their children’s future marital state as well as their, let’s call a spade a spade – desire for grandchildren. Yet, this is by far not everything. If they are not talking about their offspring’s nuptials, they focus on a continuous flow of food.

Even if you die for a quick digestive walk around the block, you can somehow be sure that your Jewish mum smuggled a lunch box into your bag. By the way – considering everything she is doing/thinking/talking about in one day alone you might think that the days of Jewish mums seem to have more hours than of an average earthling.

However, have you also observed that modern Jewish mums exceed by far what Woody Allen portrays as caricature in his films? Just go for a lavish walk on Israel’s streets: maternity leave is three months and despite that these women still have on average of three children. Being a mother doesn’t mean (at all) to give up on yourself or your aims – and the fathers do much more than their fair share since they are amazing dads anyhow.

All this happens in a country where mums happily feed their children the popular Israeli peanut flips called Bamba – without being stigmatized by a society of overly protective parents who send their toddlers to Mandarin classes while spoon-feeding them the whole organic range of foods.

At the end of the day – Jewish mums want exactly what most mothers everywhere around the world wish for: only the best for their child. Well – with the small exception that it is she who decides what is best!

Article: Katharina Höftmann

English: Jennifer Bligh

Middle East correspondent who is passionate about writing human interest stories. Published with: Spiegel Online, Bento, Welt, Welt am Sonntag, Zeit Online, Focus Online, Berliner Zeitung, dpa and others