‘Tiger’ Moms And Jewish Moms


Francine Klagbrun’s column about the image of Chinese vs. Jewish mothers gives one pause. I wonder if she might be willing to take some advice from a man (“Jewish Mothers Aren’t Tigers,” Opinion, May 13).

If the “Tiger” model is so wrong, shouldn’t we be asking why the children of Chinese immigrants, by and large, still retain deep respect of their parents?

For one thing, Chinese immigrants did not throw the baby out with the bathwater when it came to buying into American culture and values. Many Jews of an earlier generation, both men and women, did just that. Their children laughed at them because the parents — both men and women — often lacked the self-respect that today’s educated Chinese immigrants bring with them when they arrive. Our ancestors felt a deep sense of dislocation. We should not judge this earlier Jewish generation, but we should try to understand them. For the Chinese parents, self-respect has translated into respect from children for parents.

I am glad I grew up in a world of a Jewish mother and grandmother who were strong women who demanded respect before anything else. They knew that being an “Eshet Chayal” (often translated as “women of valor” but more properly rendered as women of courage, self-discipline and decisiveness) was the only way to teach us what we needed to learn.

I agree that it is not our way to insult our daughters, or our sons for that matter. That said it is also not our way to misinterpret the meaning of compassion. The Amidah — Judaism’s most important prayer — reminds us three times a day that the Lord bestows “beneficial loving kindness.” The word beneficial is not redundant. Judaism does not believe in compassion; it believes in appropriate compassion.

The Jewish women in my life may not be tigers. The words lion or lioness may be more appropriate. Any man fortunate to have strong confident Jewish women in his life should count his blessings. That, however, begins with a serious understanding of who we are.