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‘jewish Mother’ Returns, Now Prepped for the 1990s

Dan Greenburg says he knows how to be a Jewish mother.

And as the author of a newly released, 30th anniversary edition of “How to Be a Jewish Mother,” he has a right to claim expertise.

But Greenburg’s publishers, Price Stern Sloan, don’t know enough to realize that no good Jewish mother would serve the meal depicted in a photograph on the back of the book — chicken soup with matzoh balls accompanied by a tall glass of milk.

And Greenburg himself has been busy recently with at least one project no Jewish mother would boast about — a children’s book about Santa Claus’s childhood and adolescence.

The 30th anniversary version of “How To Be a Jewish Mother” includes the material that made it a hit a generation ago.

Chapters titled “Making Guilt Work” and “Taking on Everyone Else’s Pain and Making It Your Own” sound familiar to anyone who has a Jewish mother.

The book has been updated for the 1990s.

“How To Be a Well-Informed Woman of the 1990s” includes tips on what to say about various topics during dinner-party conversation, from AIDS (“Listen, I remember when it was only a diet candy”) to rap music (“Personally, this sounds like a good idea, a little music when you are doing something like wrapping a birthday present or Chanukah present would be very nice”).

Still, the new material will most likely elicit chuckles from readers who are old enough to have memories of their own Jewish mothers from the era when the first edition was published.

One new chapter, titled “Training The Jewish Prince,” which reads like it was written in 1963, advises that Jewish mothers never allow their sons to do anything helpful.

“Make him feel that he is a prince and you are here to cater to his every need. When he grows up and gets married, his wife will be only too happy to carry on this tradition,” he writes.

The author told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the chapter grew out of a recent visit to his mother and sister in Chicago.

“I got very clear messages from my mother that I am not to set the table, help prepare food or clear the table,” said Greenburg, “while it was very clear my sister was supposed to do these things.

“It’s not great training for the real world,” he said.

In his view, being a Jewish father in the 1990s means mixing one part Jewish mother and one part Jewish prince.

“Since becoming a father, I’ve probably exceeded my mother” in neurotic parenting, he said.

“I make my son crazy about whether he’s hot or cold, about whether he’s finished everything on his plate,” he said.

But “since I, the person who wrote the original book full of acidic wit and satire, have become what I was parodying,” Greenburg said, “I have scant hope for anybody else.”

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