My not-so-Jewish Jewish mother

I was raised by a not-so-Jewish Jewish mother.  Oh, my mom is Jewish, there is no doubt.  My siblings and I were raised in a small suburb with a pretty small Jewish community.  We went to services and Sunday School and Hebrew School and youth groups and jewish camp, and ate matza balls and gefilte fish and lit Shabbos candles and even build a Sukkah.  That should have been a clue–my mom built a Sukkah.  I didn’t know any moms (or dads) who built sukkahs.  My mom was not like other Jewish moms.  My mom never complained, or even sighed.  My mom thought childhood should be an adventure-so we were left to our own devices and allowed to roam and explore.  We played outside in the rain. My mother took us on rock collecting hunts, she took us to the forest preserves, and she didn’t care if our clothes got dirty.  Skinned knees were common place in our house.  We had a lot pets: dogs, gerbils, fish, turtles, tortoises, hamsters, frogs, birds, and a few others that we caught or found, including crayfish and a snake.  Once she brought home a snapping turtle that she found ambling across a street. 

My mom was not a worrier.  She did not worry about us–she said she didn’t need to–my father worried enough for both of them.

And worst (or best) of all, my mother did not make decisions for us.  She was not great at telling us what to do.  My brothers and sister and I grew up with “Well honey, I can’t tell you what to do.  What do you think you should do?”

What kind of a Jewish mother is that?

My mom was (is) not like other Jewish moms.  In the 1950’s she had natural childbirth.  No one did that!  My childhood friend says that my mom was always cutting edge.  Her mom was more of a typical Jewish mother.  She made more traditional foods, played mah jong, smoked cigarettes while ironing and watching the soaps.  And she told her daughter/my friend what to do!

This was not my mom’s style.  With one exception:  On Jewish holidays we would go to services in the morning and were home most of the afternoon.  Our non-Jewish friends and neighbors were all in school or at work.  This was the only time we were not allowed outside.  After all, “what would the goyim neighbors think?  That Jews did not send their children to school?”

This is what my mother worried about.

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2 Responses to “My not-so-Jewish Jewish mother”


  1. 1 yourjewishmother July 30, 2007 at 3:07 am

    What a great story. Rock collecting, huh? It’s a wonder she wasn’t excommunicated.

    We weren’t allowed to do anything after services either. G-d forbid the gentile neighbors would think it was ok to enjoy a holiday!

  2. 2 Nicole August 7, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    And my mom thought she was cutting edge as she had one of the very first epidurals. With three children she had one single contraction. She was a worrier, through and through, that’s for sure. I remember telling her worrying is not going to make my brother get home any faster – she wasn’t buying it.


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