The Gold-Standard Jewish Mother


Sunday is Mother’s Day. For a Jewish take on the holiday, and on mothers, The Jewish Week sought out arguably the country’s leading authority on Jewish mothers: stand-up comic Judy Gold.

An Emmy Award-winning writer and producer on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” Gold starred in a one-woman Off-Broadway show, “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” based on interviews she conducted with 50 Jewish mothers across the United States. Gold also wrote “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” based on her show.

Q: You’ve spent years researching and interviewing and portraying Jewish mothers. What is a Jewish mother?

A: One of the questions we asked the mothers we interviewed for the play and book “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” — which by the way, is a great Mother’s Day gift — was, “What makes a Jewish mother different than a non-Jewish mother?” The first woman we interview said, “We love our children more.” I don’t necessarily agree with that — perhaps, “We talk to our children more” would be more accurate. When one thinks about a Jewish mother, one often resorts to the overbearing, histrionic, overprotective type — but when you think about where that all came from, it makes a lot of sense. We’ve been kicked out of practically every place we’ve ever inhabited. Don’t you think a Jewish mother has a right and a need to know where her kids are and that they are safe?

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Rye Bread. Do you have to be Jewish to be a Jewish mother?

Absolutely not. So many people saw my show and came up to me afterwards and said, “I’m Southern Baptist and we have the same mother!” Or “I’m not Jewish, but I’m definitely a Jewish mother!”

How accurate, did you find, is the pushy, but self-sacrificing, image of a Jewish mother?

Not accurate at all. There were some, of course, but mostly these women were highly intelligent, proactive, well-educated people.

You’ve done your share of TV. How much has TV shaped the image of a Jewish mother?

Have you even seen a Jewish mother on TV lately? Except on “The Real Housewives of New York”? Oy vey!

Are there any Jewish mothers left — or any women who will admit to being a Jewish mother?

Oh, there are plenty, and I’m proud to admit it.

Your own mother liked your one-woman play, with reservations?

No, she loved it — no reservations — just for dinner afterwards.

You have two young children. Are you a Jewish mother, at least the type of Jewish mother you did onstage?

Hmmm. Can I take the Fifth?

Many young woman say they don’t want to become the type of mother their mother was. Are you?

Well, I do hear myself saying some of the same things that she said — like, “Can you two just get along? I just want some peace in this house! Can I have ONE minute to myself?” Right as it comes out of my mouth, I want to go crawl in a hole. I’m definitely more open with my kids than my mother was — everything was a secret in my family growing up, and that is certainly not the case with my kids.

What are you doing on Mother’s Day?

Visiting my Jewish mother, what else?