Mother’s Day is Sunday! (Consider yourself reminded. You’re welcome.) By pure coincidence, although probably not, last month Real Housewife of New York Jill Zarin published a maternally themed book called Secrets of a Jewish Mother.
Honestly, though—that is, not only because she’s my boss—what you really should read is Tablet Magazine Editor Alana Newhouse’s 2007 obituary for the Jewish Mother. Alana writes:
Between the 1920s and ’70s, the Jewish Mother emerged as a hallmark of American humor, a nearly foolproof ingredient for comedic success. As the bridge between the piety of Old World roots and the allure of New World desires, she embodied the essential conflict—and thus comedic potential—of acculturation. In her early years, she ruled every medium in American popular culture, with starring roles in the first family sitcom on both radio and television (Gertrude Berg’s Meet the Goldbergs) and in Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, the first feature film to include spoken dialogue. Indeed, the “historic first sound in any film,” as Antler notes, was a conversation between a Jewish mother and her child.
But the Jewish Mother’s career recently hit a rough patch from which she seemed unable to recover (see: Drescher, Fran). Although eyewitnesses have reported seeing small audiences of nervous WASPs giggling at the my-son-the-doctor!-would-it-kill-you-to-put-on-a-sweater?-oy-vey routine, critics and advocates alike agree that the past decade has seen almost no new, genuinely funny jokes about the Jewish Mother. …
… many real-life American women today are actually parenting like the stereotype, earning denigration as hover mothers, helicopters, smother mothers and more. The stereotype isn’t a stereotype anymore: We’re all Jewish mothers now.
And it’s not funny.
And, on that note, happy Mom’s Day! Promise I’ll comb my hair.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.