Archive for the 'Your Other Jewish Mother' Category

Plum Chicken for a Sweet New Year


I like to serve a sweet chicken on Rosh Hashanah and  I found the plum chicken recipe I made few years ago–it got rave reviews!  I quadrupled (or maybe quintupled) the recipe, made the sauce ahead of time and when I got home from shul I poured the sauce over the chicken and popped it in the oven.  The most difficult part was finding plum jam. 

 Plum Chicken

1 chicken cut in 8ths

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup orange juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

Combine all ingredients and pour over chicken.  Bake uncovered at 350 F for 60-75 minutes.  Baste occasionally.


* Just a note: I totally concur as I’ve had Plum Chicken at Your Other Jewish Mother’s house.  It was the first time my daughter ever asked for “more chicken!”

– Your Jewish Mother


Brisket, the Recipe I Like


This is my mom’s brisket recipe.   Ok, it’s actually Betty’s recipe, a long-time family friend. 

This is not the recipe with grape jelly or beer.  I never understood those, they did not sound very Jewish to me.  It is not the recipe with onion soup mix–that is how my aunt made brisket–that is the one my sister likes. 

This is the recipe I like. 

But my daughter the vegetarian, of course does not eat it.

My son, the carnivore, does not like any brisket, so he will not eat it. 

My mother also makes it with a veal brisket, but my brother-in-law will not eat that because of the way the calves are raised. 

My husband will eat this, but he eats almost anything.

Nevertheless-this is the recipe I will make, or my mother will make, for Rosh Hashanah. 

Roast the brisket 1/2 hour per pound, covered, at 300 F (less 1/2 hour)

Refrigerate or use ice cubes to congeal fat and remove the fat.

Slice, and add to sauce below.

Brown 3 sliced onions and 1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms.

Add 2 large cans tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp worsteshire sauce, salt, petter, and 1/4 tsp garlic flakes or 1 clove garlic.

Simmer sauce a few minutes and pour over uncovered meat last 1/2 hour.

 That’s the recipe, word for word from my mom’s recipe card.

Thanks Mom!  Shana Tova, and will you make it this year?

And we do this…why?

Along the lines of Red, Red Ribbons,  there is another bubbemeiser (old wives tale) that I have never understood. 

Why don’t we take something out of a shiva house? 

I first learned this when my grandmother died and we sat shiva at my house.  I was in my early 20’s, just out of college.  My crazy grandmother (but that is for another blog) had suddenly passed away.  I lived with my parents and siblings and we were now a house of mourning.  Someone had brought us something to eat and I went to give them the cleaned off platter before they left.  My aunt quickly stopped me and said “We don’t do that! If you bring something into a shiva house you don’t take it out until shiva is over.”  I asked her why.  She replied, “I don’t know. That’s what my mother told me.”  

So I consulted the book the rabbi who had given us on laws and traditions on Jewish funerals and mourning.  This book had every answer, even what to do if there is a gravedigger strike (answer? wait until the strike is over–support the union).  It did not have the one answer I was looking for.

So, I asked my great-aunt.  She said “Because my mother said so.”

Clearly, I needed to ask an expert.  The next evening when the Rabbi came to lead minyan, my aunt and I went to him and said, “Rabbi, why don’t we take something out of a shiva house?”  He gave us his answer. “Why? Because my mother said so.”

Does anyone’s mother know the answer? 

And why, do we question and doubt our mothers on so many things, but not this?  Perhaps that is the bigger question.

All My (Jewish) Children

There are a lot of “children” in my life.  I have a great job in a Jewish agency and one of the things I love about my job is that a lot of parents in their 20’s and 30’s ask me, in my late 40’s, for advice in parenting and handling challenging behaviors.   I am supposed to be an expert in child development.  When they come to me with parenting questions, our conversations often turn to marriage questions, in-law questions, aging parents questions.  Sometimes I give advice, sometimes  I just listen and let them cry on my shoulder.

I also have 14 nieces and nephews.  My own siblings do not come to me for advice–for they know the real me and do not think I am an expert in anything.  Besides, they go to the real expert–our own mother.  My siblings-in-law, however, do call me with questions.  And I carefully and humbly dole out “suggestions” and some ideas of why a child might be doing whatever it is that he/she is doing.

And I am always ready to give advice–based on my many years of experience and numerous years and coursework in higher education.   Sometimes I ponder the situation and maybe do a little research into whatever issue is arising.  Sometimes,  my advanced degrees have trained me so well that I can supply a solution very quickly.

One of my co-workers came to me with a huge and pressing problem.  Her three year old was very precocious and had taken to licking her mother’s hand.  Poor co-worker with slimy hand, just did not know what to do.  I used all my knowledge and background and, in my very professional expert-like manner, responded “Well, you could move your hand.”

Where else, but from a professional Jewish mother, would one get such sage advice?  It is nice to be needed.

My birthday boy

I can’t do this.  I am usually a reasonable, rational, responsible mother.  But today, at exactly 2:43 in the afternoon, my son will turn 18 years old, and I am having a very hard time.  I know what 18 means.  It means he can be independent, it means that soon he will graduate high school and, at some point, he will leave home. 

I knew this day would be coming all too soon.  I realized this on his 8th day of life.  The day all Jewish mothers dread and look forward to at the same time.  The bris.  I could not watch, I could not even stay in the room.  When they were ready to name my little boy, I came out of hiding and walked to the end of the hall.  I saw my father holding my baby son, I heard the mohel give him his beautiful name, and then (and this is something of a blur) my husband and I were told to repeat something about bringing our child into a life of Torah, Gemulit Hasidim (good deeds), and Chupah.  Chupah??? Marriage???  They want me to bring this tiny baby, that I waited so very long for,  to a Chupah?  Who’s crazy idea was that?  I just got this kid, he wasn’t going anywhere. Someone gave my baby back to me, I went back to hiding and rocked him until everyone left.

Of course, when I caught my breath, I realized that it really meant this:  Raise your child in the ways of the Torah and to be a good person and to grow up and continue what you have begun. 

That is the job of a Jewish mother.

Of course, this is what I want for my son.  Really it is.  Sort of.  I want him to be a strong young man.  I want him to be independent.  I want him to fly the coop, to leave the nest.  But, I want him to need me too, just a little.

When I look at him I don’t see the tall young man with the voice exactly like his father’s.  I don’t see that I have to look up to meet the eyes on his needs-to-shave face.  I see a two year old boy with a squeaky voice who wants to climb into my lap.  When his booming voice says “leave me alone” and “stay out of my life”  I hear “I love you Mommy.  Hold you Mommy.  Stay with me Mommy.”

I am so afraid of him being hurt.  Even though I know that with hurt comes growth.  I am so afraid that the Big Bad World will hurt him and I will not be there pick up the pieces and kiss his owie.

One day, when my son was about 10 or 11 years old, he looked around and announced “Around here, it is like all the Jewish mothers are watching.  All the Jewish mothers take care of all the Jewish kids.”  I was really touched and pleased that he noticed that there were many people who cared for him. 

I know that when the Big Good/Bad World comes a calling, I will have to make sure that the door is open and my grown up little boy walks through it.  And really, truly,  I hope that he has many wonderful adventures out there, without me.

So, all you Jewish moms,  when you see a handsome young  man, who looks in need of a hug and a little mothering, please lend him an ear and give him a nosh. 

We are both counting on you.

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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