Why everyone should have a Jewish mother in their lives

Eufemia Didonato

Then there is our reputation for smothering our children with affection, protection and interference… long after they have become adults and left home (usually, not surprisingly, for somewhere far away). 

Noemie, a former GP, mother of four daughters and a very young and glam grandmother to boot, chuckles at such characterisation. “You can’t escape all that stuff – from Maureen Lipman swooning over her son’s ‘ology’ in the old BT adverts to  Tamsin Greig in Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner. And we love it and laugh at it since some of it is true. And anyway, laughter is so important to us – not least about ourselves.”

As Lynne, a dentist and also a mother of four, points out: “The podcast  isn’t about having a specific Jewish mother in your life. It’s the concept. This person doesn’t have to be Jewish, a woman, a mother. It’s about having that central figure in you life that you can offload to, who will hear you, support and comfort you.”

Certainly those who have been raised by Jewish mothers will testify to their strength in challenging situations as well as the depth of their wisdom; wisdom that is often passed down through the generations. The three of us often find ourselves quoting the homilies espoused by our own mothers. Such as – an enduring favourite – Mit eyn tokhes ken men nit tantsn af tsvey khasenes. (Yiddish for “Can’t have your bottom at two weddings”, often exhorted for those who hand-wring over trying to be in two places at once.)

Indeed what of the mothers who shaped us? They couldn’t be more different. Noemie’s mother endured a traumatic upbringing in wartime France – first hidden from and then captured by the Nazis at the age of just 10. She was widowed when Noemie was 12.  

As a polar opposite, Lynne’s mum tells wonderful stories of being the traditional  doctor’s wife and homemaker. Meanwhile my own mother worked full time as an administrator – long after she should have retired – since she too was widowed. It was a source of tension for her to be our everything even when she had to work.

Yet despite their disparate backgrounds, these women filled our world with warmth, wisdom and advice (even when we didn’t always want it).

In each episode, we bring that Jewish mother perspective to universal themes – from dealing with guilt to how to resolve broguses – the marvellous Yiddish word for simmering resentments. Along the way there’s plenty of colour and tradition – such as why we start planning Friday night dinner on a Monday morning, as it is the most important meal of the week. Ignore the TV show – it’s where good food, lively conversation, no phones/computers and often tons of guests, conspire to create the ultimate wind down. Every home should try it.

So do sample a bit of Jewish mother in your life. As the old saying goes, “You don`t have to be Jewish. Just go make sure you have something to eat first.”

Jewish Mother Me is available from Spotify, Apple and other podcast providers 

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