November 19, 2018

Motherhood 101: The Jurassic Movies

The original Jurassic Park came out in 1993. I remember seeing it and being scared to death. I’m not one to see big budget action/adventure movies like that, but it was a big deal movie so I went. It was the only one of the trio I saw in the theater. My son was born in 1996 and I watched Jurassic Park 1, 2, and 3 with him at home on VHS tape beginning when he was about 5 years old. 

I thought he was too young, but we watched, he held onto me occasionally, but overall was more fascinated than scared. He thought the dinosaurs were everything. He became an instant fan and obsessed with the T-Rex. We bought books, action figures, clothes and posters as his love affair with all things Jurassic began. I was even scared watching it years later on TV, but my son was mesmerized. 

When the first one came out I was working at Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, which was located on the Universal Studios lot. My son waited a long time to meet the height requirements for the park’s Jurassic Park Ride. When he was tall enough he rode it a lot. By a lot of course I mean the operators knew my kid by name. He would ride 10 times in a row. I could manage 3 rounds, then he’d go over and over again by himself, waving as he plummeted down.

My son had seen the Jurassic Park movies countless times, but never on the big screen until Jurassic World. It is a moment in my motherhood I treasure because we saw it together. Now with the arrival of Jurassic World 2, I can tell you we saw it last night and it was great. I jumped a lot, but my son simply sat in wonder. It is a very good movie, Chris Pratt is great in it, and I recommend seeing it.  It makes me happy that these movies continue to be something special that is just ours. Ours and a gazillion other people, but you know what I mean.

With so many movie franchises during his lifetime, there were some we went to, and others he went to with his dad, but Jurassic has always been just ours. We have shared these movies together and still talk about watching them when he was little. He still has some of the toys from his childhood, and remembers his dinosaur themed birthday parties. I remember like yesterday when he realized Barney was just a Jurassic Park wannabe.

It feels like just yesterday that I watched Jurassic Park with my son and I can recall with real clarity his expression of wonderment as he never once took his eyes off the screen. I remember buying him Jurassic Park toys for Hanukah and him being so excited he screamed out how much he loved me and jumped up and down saying he could not believe what was happening. I have a real affection for these movies as they have helped define my life as a mother.  

My baby boy is 22 years old now, but when I look over at him watching the dinosaurs, I will flash back to him being 5, sitting on the couch, holding my hand, and staring in wonder as if they were real. He may never understand how important seeing these movies is to me, and probably thinks I’m ridiculous for insisting we see them together, but that is okay. My heart will be full, my pulse will be racing, dinosaurs will arrive, time will stand still, and I will be keeping the faith.

Jewish Mother 2.0

Dani Klein Modisett

My teenage son would not be excited about my writing this at his desk, or my being in his room at all. But he started high school last week and I can’t believe it.

Ours is not an empty nest, but I know how soon it will become one, and I just wanted to sit with his stuff around me. I’m lying about that last part. There is no way I could long for my son’s “stuff” because it’s everywhere: the sneakers, the headphones, the endless stream of water glasses he fills to the top with ice, sips and abandons.

No, I am sitting in his room because I am hoping to be inspired. I am sitting in the exact spot where my desk used to be before we ripped out my office to put in his private lair — I mean bedroom. I did a lot of writing in this small corner of our house over the past decade, including a book about the need for laughter in marriage.

Dumb, dumb, shortsighted, dumb.

It’s not that we don’t need to laugh in marriage; we most definitely do, but a mere few years later I see now I was focused on the wrong family dynamic. The relationship you really need to pull out the clown car for is the one with your teenager.

I first heard the phrase “family dynamic” in a therapist’s office in Connecticut, circa 1975. I remember all four members of my family squeezing onto a couch across from an ancient-looking woman, probably 40, dressed in soft separates and nodding a lot. We had just moved from New York City, a decision only my father was happy about. I was still young enough to roll with it, but my mother, a native New Yorker like the one Donna Summer was singing about in her top-40 hit, was eating scrambled rage and toast for breakfast, and my sister was in the middle of her 13th year, already hit by the hormonal wrecking ball of being a teenager.

That was, I have no doubt now, the straw that broke the Klein camel’s back.

To date, our family dynamic is healthy enough without an outside ringleader, mostly because we find laughing together as therapeutic as my mother found spending her Saturdays at Loehmann’s. The unit is fine, but as the school year kicks off, I’m the one who’s feeling meshugge. Not just because I can’t stop the march of time, but also because I can’t seem to find the line between concerned parent and overbearing Jewish mother, a cliché I am deathly afraid of becoming. If you’ve seen any Woody Allen movie made before he married his girlfriend’s daughter, you would be too. He always features at least one loud, nagging, unattractive Jewish mother who is eating something greasy while telling her children to “stand up straight,” “do something about the pimples” and “marry rich.” In fact, I go out of my way to behave quite the opposite as a mother: I proudly aspire to be  “underbearing,”

The boys are back in school this week, which means I am privy to a lot more parenting conversations that I often feel I have to slowly back away from for fear of exposing my laissez-faire style.

“What do you mean you don’t read your son’s texts after he goes to bed?” one of the moms I know from temple asked me recently.

“I mean I don’t read my son’s texts when he goes to bed.”

“But … but … ” she looked at me like there was a burning bush in my house that I was ignoring.

“I’m not going to walk in his room and grab his phone after he’s asleep,” I added.

“Walk in his room? You let him keep his phone in his room at night?” another one chimed in.  “Haven’t you seen ‘Screenagers’ ”?

“Um … no. And yes. He keeps it in a charger by his window.”

“I’ll bet he does,” the first one said.

“What kind of a Jewish mother are you?” No. 2 added, tossing her highlighted hair back and laughing.

“A lame one, I guess,” I said, half-jokingly while heading to my car, breaking a non-peri-menopausal sweat.

Will my fear of becoming a Jewish cliché be my son’s undoing? Leaving him vulnerable to cyberpredators? To a debilitating lack of sleep as he scrolls endlessly in the wee hours of the night? To a stream of naked selfies from girls that he forwards to his friends — and then gets caught and arrested for trafficking in child porn?

I suddenly found myself looking back fondly to a simpler time when being a Jewish mother meant worrying that your precious child was going to get sick from snot-nosed kids on the bus, or that he didn’t get enough lox on his bagel. Or praying to God silently — sometimes not so silently — for him to find a nice Jewish girl to marry.

That’s how I ended up at his desk, you know, to write, of course. And, perhaps, to take a more “CSI: Teenager” approach to my Jewish mothering.


Dani Klein Modisett is a comic and writer, most recently of the book “Take My Spouse, Please.”

A new approach to Jewish mothering

My teenage son would not be excited about my writing this at his desk, or my being in his room at all. But he started high school last week and I can’t believe it.

Ours is not an empty nest, but I know how soon it will become one, and I just wanted to sit with his stuff around me. I’m lying about that last part. There is no way I could long for my son’s “stuff” because it’s everywhere: the sneakers, the headphones, the endless stream of water glasses he fills to the top with ice, sips and abandons.

No, I am sitting in his room because I am hoping to be inspired. I am sitting in the exact spot where my desk used to be before we ripped out my office to put in his private lair — I mean bedroom. I did a lot of writing in this small corner of our house over the past decade, including a book about the need for laughter in marriage.

Dumb, dumb, shortsighted, dumb.

It’s not that we don’t need to laugh in marriage; we most definitely do, but a mere few years later I see now I was focused on the wrong family dynamic. The relationship you really need to pull out the clown car for is the one with your teenager.

I first heard the phrase “family dynamic” in a therapist’s office in Connecticut, circa 1975. I remember all four members of my family squeezing onto a couch across from an ancient-looking woman, probably 40, dressed in soft separates and nodding a lot. We had just moved from New York City, a decision only my father was happy about. I was still young enough to roll with it, but my mother, a native New Yorker like the one Donna Summer was singing about in her top-40 hit, was eating scrambled rage and toast for breakfast, and my sister was in the middle of her 13th year, already hit by the hormonal wrecking ball of being a teenager.

That was, I have no doubt now, the straw that broke the Klein camel’s back.

To date, our family dynamic is healthy enough without an outside ringleader, mostly because we find laughing together as therapeutic as my mother found spending her Saturdays at Loehmann’s. The unit is fine, but as the school year kicks off, I’m the one who’s feeling meshugge. Not just because I can’t stop the march of time, but also because I can’t seem to find the line between concerned parent and overbearing Jewish mother, a cliché I am deathly afraid of becoming. If you’ve seen any Woody Allen movie made before he married his girlfriend’s daughter, you would be too. He always features at least one loud, nagging, unattractive Jewish mother who is eating something greasy while telling her children to “stand up straight,” “do something about the pimples” and “marry rich.” In fact, I go out of my way to behave quite the opposite as a mother: I proudly aspire to be  “underbearing,”

The boys are back in school this week, which means I am privy to a lot more parenting conversations that I often feel I have to slowly back away from for fear of exposing my laissez-faire style.

“What do you mean you don’t read your son’s texts after he goes to bed?” one of the moms I know from temple asked me recently.

“I mean I don’t read my son’s texts when he goes to bed.”

“But … but … ” she looked at me like there was a burning bush in my house that I was ignoring.

“I’m not going to walk in his room and grab his phone after he’s asleep,” I added.

“Walk in his room? You let him keep his phone in his room at night?” another one chimed in.  “Haven’t you seen ‘Screenagers’ ”?

“Um … no. And yes. He keeps it in a charger by his window.”

“I’ll bet he does,” the first one said.

“What kind of a Jewish mother are you?” No. 2 added, tossing her highlighted hair back and laughing.

“A lame one, I guess,” I said, half-jokingly while heading to my car, breaking a non-peri-menopausal sweat.

Will my fear of becoming a Jewish cliché be my son’s undoing? Leaving him vulnerable to cyberpredators? To a debilitating lack of sleep as he scrolls endlessly in the wee hours of the night? To a stream of naked selfies from girls that he forwards to his friends — and then gets caught and arrested for trafficking in child porn?

I suddenly found myself looking back fondly to a simpler time when being a Jewish mother meant worrying that your precious child was going to get sick from snot-nosed kids on the bus, or that he didn’t get enough lox on his bagel. Or praying to God silently — sometimes not so silently — for him to find a nice Jewish girl to marry.

That’s how I ended up at his desk, you know, to write, of course. And, perhaps, to take a more “CSI: Teenager” approach to my Jewish mothering.

Parenting: The Torah of motherhood

My road from twice-a-year Jew to Torah-study groupie took 40 years. With the heady days of the High Holy Days, Sukkot and Simchat Torah still fresh in my mind, it’s worth examining how I got here. 

During my youth, my family and I attended synagogue only during the High Holy Days. Even then, like most adolescents, no matter the Jewish preschool, Jewish summer camp, bat mitzvah or confirmation, the rabbi’s sermon was my cue to flee the sanctuary with my sister to find the other kids in the parking lot tearing into a purloined challah snatched from the synagogue kitchen.  

As I got older, I began to appreciate the meditative, communal experience. After every High Holy Days season, the spiritual renewal that filled me had me vowing I’d be back the very next Shabbat. But, inevitably, by the next week the excuses came readily — “I’m too tired,” “We’re out of town” or “I’ll go next week” — until the weeks piled up and the High Holy Days were back again.

So what happened to make me a Torah- study groupie? Eleven and a half years ago I became a parent, which means I am now the mother of a middle-schooler, and I need as much help as I can get. As kids get older, the problems get thornier. I pine for inspiration and guidance, for clues to being a better parent than I often feel equipped to be. When a friend gushed about Torah study, calling it her weekly “vitamin,” I decided I had nothing to lose. And while I have dog-eared my share of parenting books, ranging from sleep training to sibling rivalry, I have found that the biggest questions are answered in The Great Big Parenting Book — Torah. 

It’s a best-seller, but it’s not an easy read. It doesn’t give away its wisdom to those hoping for a quick skim. For example, during the High Holy Days, we read one of the Torah’s grimmest parenting stories — the Binding of Isaac. Those are pretty words for a nightmarish chapter — a father leading his son up a mountain, tying him to a rock and preparing to sacrifice him with a blade through the sternum. What parenting advice could I hope to get from that catastrophe?

At my synagogue, Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades, Rabbi Amy Bernstein, who is also a mother, gleaned something positive out of this horror story. “God stopped Abraham,” she said, “before he hurt Isaac. Sometimes we need a voice from God to stop us from hurting our kids.” 

To the sanctuary full of well-meaning parents, she wasn’t talking about physical hurt. My mind catalogued those moments when I wished I could take back certain words I’d uttered. Greeting my sixth-grader after school with, “How much homework do you have?” instead of “Hi, kiddo, it’s great to see you.” Nagging my second-grader to finish his homework instead of paying attention to the imaginary world he is creating with Legos. Sharing with my friends stories I considered “cute” but that would embarrass my kids. Telling my children in any given moment what they are doing wrong instead of what they are doing right. These are the times I need an inner voice counseling restraint, an angel on my shoulder advising, “Don’t criticize. Don’t pile on the stress. Bite your tongue.” I know my sons would appreciate it if I were to bite my tongue during baseball games, instead of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from the bleachers. (Restraint is so hard!) I resolved to try harder.

With the new school year well under way, there’s another kind of hurt I am even more troubled by — the pain inflicted by their peers, the slights, ribbing and put-downs that can penetrate guileless thin skin, or even thicker skin. My son’s friends engage in banter that tiptoes along the line of insults, jokes that cut, a contest of one-upmanship, which my son frequently reports in dejected tones. One boy gets made fun of for the color Gatorade he drinks or for wearing glasses. Another is ridiculed for liking the Clippers or for the color of his shorts. They toss the word gay around as pejorative. Did I mention that these are their friends? I struggle with how to handle this not-quite-bullying-but-hurts-just-the-same comments. I need ancient wisdom to tell me how to be a loving guide through pre-adolescence and beyond, to salve the injury of having your feelings hurt by those you know best. 

I think back to the story of Isaac’s near-catastrophe and find two more clues. First, God didn’t intervene until the harm was imminent and irreparable. By the time God stepped in, things looked pretty bleak for Isaac. Barring Isaac pulling some sort of superhero moves, bursting through his restraints like the Hulk, kicking Abraham’s weapon down the mountain and shouting, “What the hell was that, Dad?” God had to intervene. But only at the last possible moment.

Great. I need to wait until there’s a metaphorical knife at my kid’s chest before stepping in? That seems too much. But since my Jewish mother’s instinct is to jump in at the slightest hint of a problem, it’s good to set a high bar. Usually I’m ready to call in the cavalry when he’s over it. It’s not easy to see that kid struggling on the rock, but if my kid can get out of the mess on his own, I have to let him. 

Second, I think about what to do with hurt feelings that linger. I imagine what a modern therapist might tell Isaac to make sense of what happened: “What Abraham did had nothing to do with how he feels about you. He loves you! He had his own issues.” I can tell my son the same truth, that when people say mean things, it usually means they are suffering. It has nothing to do with him. I can show him his power, praise his good heart and instill in him the self-reliance to tell his friends to knock it off, to stand up for himself or to walk away. And the choice is his. 

A of couple months into the school year, the reports of meanness are getting farther apart. I’m quite sure that, as usual, his bruises hurt me longer and deeper than they bother him. I need to remember that he is more resilient than I am. Like Isaac getting up off that rock, brushing himself off and walking down the mountain, he is moving on with the rest of his story. 

I may not have appreciated what Judaism had to offer when I was a child and all I wanted was for the services to be over, but I am grateful to have kept the connection to my family’s faith all these years. It’s there for me now when I need it. Every week, I’ll be back in Torah study with the group of intelligent, curious souls, mining more of our ancient stories for modern parenting gold.


Laura Diamond is the editor of the anthology “Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood” and is working on her first novel. She is a member of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades.

Alleged Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner has Jewish mother, acquaintance says

An acquaintance of Jared Lee Loughner, the accused gunman in the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, says his mother is Jewish.

Bryce Tierney, a friend of Loughner from high school, told Mother Jones magazine that the alleged gunman posted “Mein Kampf” as a “favorite book” on a social media site in part to provoke his mother, who Tierney says is Jewish.

Amy Loughner’s maiden name is Totman, according to Arizona public records, and she married Randy Loughner in 1986. Totman is a common old English name and JTA could not uncover any record of Jewish affiliation for the family. Jewish Tucsonians said they were unaware of the family.

Loughner, 22, waived bail on Monday when he appeared in a federal courtroom to face two federal charges of murder and three charges of attempted murder. He likely will face additional state murder charges.

Saturday’s shooting at a Tucson shopping mall left Giffords, 40, critically injured and killed six others. Giffords, a Democrat, is the first Jewish woman elected to federal office from Arizona.

Attack of ‘The Mothers’

It’s early Saturday morning and Shabbat is cresting with the West Coast sunrise. As is my custom, I dress, slip into a pair of heels, and ready myself for a contemplative worship. When I was new in town I could daven, throw back a shot of Manichewitz and grab a piece of challah on my way out; but the days of passing through community circles unnoticed and unscathed are over.

The first time it happened, a well-dressed woman with ebony tresses and ample perfume pulled me aside during Kiddush and said, “Excuse me, are you married?”

She grabbed my right hand and glared at my naked finger.

“No, I’m not married,” I replied.

“Are you Jewish?”

“Am I Jewish?” I thought, incredulous. I’m in temple, on Shabbat. This is not a pashmina draped over my shoulders. It’s a tallit.

“How old are you?”

“I’m 24.”

“Very good,” she said, all smiley and nodding.

She meant “very good” not because she felt Jewish-feminist pride that a single young woman is attending Shabbat services, but because my answer affirmed that I have six more childbearing years before I turn 30.

“I have a son! He is handsome, a lawyer. Can he call you?”

I know how to handle men, but their mothers? An entirely different challenge. Until I moved to Los Angeles, I had never been “hit on” by women. Now women twice, thrice, even four times my age (I call them mothers-on-the-prowl) approach me nearly every Shabbat. Sometimes, they attack in the middle of the Amidah.

The interrogation usually happens in this order: marital status, ethnic/religious status, age. This maternal screening/courting ritual is difficult to deter. If I’m feeling naughty, I slip a ring on my index finger then stay silent after question No. 1.

At first, I was naïve. I dished out my Jewish Journal business cards like I had a thousand gathering dust on my desk. I didn’t really think they’d call.

I’ve since learned that Jewish mothers out to wed their sons have the chutzpah to persist until the messiah arrives. Oh did they call — reminding me that we met on Shabbat and that their handsome, corporate finance, lawyer/surgeon/mogul/magnate sons were going to ring.

Flattery turned to frustration. Could I stomach all these dates with men who were complete strangers? Did I want to date a man whose mother was doing his dirty work?

I dealt with the phone and e-mail dating inquiries with “busy”excuses or ignored them altogether. It’s easy to delete a voicemail from a guy you’ve never met, but negotiating the fragile terrain of The Mother Set-Up is fraught with sensitive social etiquette I’m not well versed in.

How do you explain — in person �”to an overbearing Jewish mother that you have zero interest in being set up with her sensational offspring?

You don’t. So it continued, every Shabbat when three or four or five mothers, grandmothers and even sisters would repeat the weekly ordeal:

“I have a son. He’s in real estate. A good business. Very handsome!”

“I have a brother. He’s 40, a plastic surgeon, very handsome!”

“I have two sons. Both doctors, very handsome. Have your pick!”

I stopped bringing the cards to temple because I thought I might be fired if my editors ever listened to my voicemail.

Then things changed. It started happening during services — a tap from behind, “Excuse me, are you married?”

“No, but do you think this could wait until after the rabbi’s sermon?”

So The Mothers would whip out their pens.

“Here, please. Write your phone number. My son will call you.”

I attend a Conservative synagogue and haven’t picked up a pen since one of the cantors reprimanded me for taking notes during a Shabbat lecture.

I started telling The Mothers that I do not give out my number on Shabbat. They laugh; then they ask again.

One providential morning, an attractive mother in hot pink satin gave me the third degree and went to fetch her son. I snuck into the sanctuary, hoping to disappear in the rabbi’s lecture, but the next thing I knew The Mother and The Son were sitting right behind me, patiently waiting half an hour for an opportunity to arrange the shidduch. Ugh!

After some chit-chat, The Mother suggested her son and I exchange phone numbers. To give us privacy she stepped a few feet away.

I wondered if she’d want an adjoining room on the honeymoon.

I walked away deflated. He wasn’t even cute. But something more bothered me: Mothers elicit the desire to please, which makes my refusal — and me �”disappointing; as if they pose a challenge I can’t meet. And maybe it hurts a little that their community embrace begins and ends with marriage machinations. Or perhaps, the sheer persistency is convincing me I might be wrong to doubt them.

I remind myself that I possess my own romantic dreams which do not include being followed three floors down into the parking garage in pursuit of a phone number. I’m not Britney Spears or a flank steak.

I guess I’m deceiving them by projecting the image of a woman who’s ready for that kind of arrangement. With my remaining childbearing years, I plan to hold out for the moment when I see him across the room, and our eyes meet like two souls dancing.

But I gotta hand it to ’em — those masterful mothers. If only their sons knew what they wanted in a woman as much as The Mothers know exactly what woman they want for their sons.

Jewish mothers from Italy, Belgium, and Russia


Jewish Mother 1 is from Italy
Click the BIG ARROW


Jewish Mother 2 appears in a public service announcement from Belgium
Click the BIG ARROW


My Yiddishe Mama 3 — Moscow Male Jewish Cappella sings ‘Yiddishe Mama’
Click the BIG ARROW

Different cultures produce different Jewish mothers

When people talk about the Jewish mother stereotype, they’re usually referring to the American Ashkenazi Jewish mother stereotype.

But what about Jewish mothers from different cultures and countries?

In Israel, where the Jewish mother is everywhere, the stereotype is known as “Isha Polania,” or a “Polish woman,” but can be applied to any woman who fits the description: She suffers but with an Israeli twist — not a martyr, she’s aggressive in her suffering and, like a Middle Easterner, she knows how to hold a grudge.

Consider this joke translated from the Hebrew:


“Polish” woman 1: “Have I told you how wonderful you look today?”
“Polish” woman 2: “Too bad that I can’t return the compliment.”
“Polish” woman 1: “What, you don’t know how to lie like I do?”

“They are very jealous, and they don’t forgive,” says Avner Hofstein, West Coast bureau chief of the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot. “They don’t forgive their neighbors, and they’re always talking about how someone else is not as good as them in order to make their status seem better (‘Did you see what she did with her son?’).”

Hofstein says that to be a “Polanit” is a state of mind, not a place of origin. “The Yemenites are the biggest Polaniyot,” he says.

But the Israeli stereotypical Jewish mother is also evolving. “Today there are more career women, plenty of women with child care, with nannies — the women work outside more, so their focus is not so much on their children,” Hofstein says. “They’re more like Americans.”

But, he added, in Los Angeles, you do see more of the stereotypical Israeli mother, “because the women don’t work outside the home, and they’re focused on the children and all their activities. All day long the mothers are nudging them.”

Persian Jewish mothers have their own typecasting, too. For these women, the original stereotypical Jewish mother was referred to as “Sara Khanom” (Lady Sara), according to Dr. Nahid Pirnazar, lecturer of Iranian studies at UCLA. Like the American Ashkenazi Jewish mother, Lady Sara is a nurturer and caretaker but not loud or brassy.

“She is usually very naive, submissive and a devoted mother and wife. She is the one who takes care of the family Shabbat dinner with her special meal called the ‘Gondi.’ She usually speaks with a Jewish accent and accompanies her husband, ‘Aqa Ya’qub’ (Master Yaqub) wherever the occasion permits,” Pirnazar says.

Today, Persian Jewish mothers, while many of them have achieved the highest levels of professional, academic and social status, still face the struggles of many new immigrants: how to integrate the old with the new.

“Persian Jewish women are caught between the traditional culture of their original community and the new challenge of life in America,” Pirnazar says. “This challenge is shown in every aspect of their lives: Their own relations with their parents, relations with their spouse, children and, if unmarried, the choice of a partner in life. They try to perform their obligations to everyone and if possible fulfill their own dreams.”

Gina Nahai, a Jewish Journal columnist, is a professor of creative writing at USC and best-selling novelist (“Cry of the Peacock” (Crown, 1991) and the upcoming “Dreams of a Caspian Rain,” among others). Nahai also considers herself a typical Persian Jewish mother because she’s overprotective.

“My son moved to New York two years ago, and every time I see him, I spend the whole time crying, thinking of leaving him,” she says. “My daughter got into Berkeley, and we encouraged her to go, but she didn’t, and we were all happy.”

“Persian mothers want to keep their children warm and safe their entire lives,” Nahai says, but that characteristic is changing a little. Although there are grown men who live with their parents until they get married at 40 or women who must see their mothers every day, perhaps Persian Jewish mothers are “a little less likely” to hold on too long and are more willing to let their children move out.

But as far as the stereotype that Persian Jewish mothers only want their daughters to “marry up” and their sons to have a good career and family, “I don’t see that changing much,” Nahai says.

“I’m really amazed at how much (the girls) have become their mothers; they aspire to the same things as their mothers aspired for them. Some go to school, but you can tell it’s finishing school, not an actual pursuit of something.”

Helicopter parents: Jewish mothers go airborne

Consider this description from Wikipedia: “a person who pays extremely close attention” to her children and rushes “to prevent any harm from befalling them or letting them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children’s wishes.”

Consider further this description from collegeboard.com: “They are always on the lookout for threats to their children’s success and happiness. If a problem does surface, these parents are ready to swoop in and save the day.”

Definitions of a Jewish Mother, yes? Sorry, bubeleh. They’re definitions of “helicopter parent,” the phenomenon of hovering, overprotective, overinvested, and overbearing mothers and fathers. Apparently Jewish mothering is contagious: jumping gender and religion on a national scale. Suddenly we are all, as Woody Allen titled his short film in New York Stories, “Oedipus Wrecks.” And no one is giving credit where credit is a Jew.

To see just how closely a Helicopter Parent resembles a Jewish mother, one need only glance at collegeboard.com’s quiz “How Do You Know If You’re a Helicopter Parent?” While the term is often used in the context of parenting college-age children, the similarities are undeniable. Still, the Helicopters can only bob amateurishly in the mighty wake of the Jewish mother jet fighters.

You are in constant contact with your child

Jewish smothering has wrung its hands into the 21st century, where you can run, but you can’t hide. The AT & T network was nicknamed “Ma Bell” for a reason, and with satellite technology your mother knows she can hear you now. (Nu, so why aren’t you calling?) She can even buy you a ringtone from YentaTones, including “Ya Mother’s Cawling,” “My Son the Doctor,” and “Have I Got a Boy for You.”

University of Georgia professor Richard Mullendore dubs cellphones the “world’s longest umbilical cord.” But Nokia-wielding Helicopters are mere Johnny-come-latelies to long-settled Jewish mother territory. Indeed, as Allen, Phillip Roth and the APA know, Jewish mothers achieved wireless communication decades ago with the guilt-powered internal monologue.

You are in constant contact with school administration

A recent Doonesbury panel depicted a cellphone-brandishing MIT freshman telling the dean if he didn’t let her into the class she wanted, he’d have to speak to her father. While Helicopters specifically target college administrators, Jewish mothers have targeted the entire world — teachers, doctors, roommates, boy/girlfriends, spouses, bosses — no one is off limits. In Allen’s short film, his mother and aunt pay him a surprise visit at work — a WASPy Manhattan law firm. When an imposing white-haired partner comes to retrieve Allen, who has left an important meeting to head his mother off, she turns to her hearing-impaired sister and says of the boss in a voce not nearly sotto enough, “He’s the one with the mistress!”

You make your child’s academic decisions

Yes, Helicopters choose their children’s school and their courses, after which they may even maneuver their way to do the schoolwork itself. Meanwhile, Jewish mothers have mandated legal, medical, and other professional careers for generations of sons and now daughters, many of whom probably represent Helicopters in their grudge suits against schools or treat them for anxiety and depression when Junior gets a B. Even beyond the academy, Jewish mothers are notorious for deciding everything for their children: from when to wear a sweater to why they shouldn’t marry that no-goodnick.

While both Helicopters and Jewish Mothers dictate and interfere, their decision-making methods differ. Helicopters take direct action: the old nothing-gets-done-right-unless-I-do-it-myself approach. Jewish mothers, on the other hand, nudge until they get their children to do it. My son the doctor, as the ringtone trills, wasn’t always a doctor, but the Jewish mother knows she can do only so much on her own to make him one. To become Dr. Katz, he’s going to have to take his own MCATS. All she can do is provide a little motivation, i.e., alternating doses of praise and guilt.

You feel bad about yourself if your child does not do well

Helicopters derive vicarious pleasure from their children’s accomplishments and suffer pain from their “failures.” Data released by the Society for Research in Child Development indicates that in seeking self-worth through their children’s achievements — which means getting top grades and into certain colleges — Helicopters endure more anxiety, depression, and insecurity, and enjoy less contentment, than those on the ground.

Jewish Mothers, too, are utterly invested in their children’s advancement. For them, however, it is not the Ivy League or bust. Jewish mothers are less interested in prestige than they are in tikkun olam that happens to come with a house in the suburbs. Steven Spielberg’s mother, undoubtedly bursting with nachas, might still feel a pang of regret that her son was not, for example, Jonas Salk. Helicopters want their children to do well; Jewish Mothers want their children to do good.

Popular culture may have assimilated the bagel hamwich, Red State Yiddish, and the “Daily Show,” but it can never appropriate the Jewish mother. At the end of the day, both the Helicopters and Jewish mothers are fueled by love gone amok, but only the Jewish Mother answers to an authority higher than Air Traffic Control.

Ronda Fox is the proud mother of two teenage mensches who do their best to keep her grounded.

Oy vey! You should read what they’re writing about them — in books yet

I have the kind of Jewish mother who could both make gefilte fish from scratch and play 18 holes of golf in one day. Every day throughout my high school years, my mother would hand me lunch in a paper bag as I rushed out the door and left most of the breakfast she had prepared on the kitchen table.

Now, when she visits, my eighty-something mother will clean our toaster inside out if we don’t stop her. She’s still the best person around to shop with for just about anything.

But while I’ve always been a daughter –an adoring one, in fact — this is the first time that I’ve written a column about books for Mother’s Day while being interrupted to go over 5th-grade spelling words and help illustrate a 7th-grade poster. As I write late into the night, tomorrow night’s dinner is cooking and three young children are sleeping upstairs in the new home I share with them and their father, a widower.

We got married just a few months ago, and we are all finding our way toward forging a family. Yes, I see my mother in my household routines, and I am ever aware of her example and increasingly awestruck by her talents.

So I read this season’s selection of books with perhaps a different eye and an increased curiosity. There are serious books about Jewish mothers, lighthearted books, how-to volumes and memoirs and some manage to cross categories. Some offer knowing advice, others observations and jokes. The best are those that are open, honest and wise, not preachy or sentimental.

The title of Joyce Antler’s new book not only grabs attention but conveys the tone of the book. “You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother” is scholarly and lively, full of rich anecdotes drawn from popular culture, sociological and historical studies and life experience.

Antler, a professor of American Jewish history and culture at Brandeis University and author of several books, including “The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America,” examines the origins of negative stereotypes associated with the Jewish mother. She shows how images like being domineering, manipulative and overprotective have endured, and how they’ve been depicted in books, film and particularly on television, even as Jewish mothers have represented so much more than that.

“I wanted to understand the misunderstood Jewish mother, ” Antler said in an interview, noting her goal of coming up with a portrait that’s more diverse and pluralistic, recognizing the great strengths of Jewish women over these last decades in America, who’ve helped their families get acculturated and achieve great success. She said that the images get re-invented every generation or so.

25 Questions for a Jewish Mother book cover
Hers is the most serious and engaging of new books, as she shifts her analytical eye from early television and radio’s Molly Goldberg and the jokes of George Jessel (“Isn’t it nice to have your own phone?” he asks his mother. “What? Nobody calls you? Even before you had the phone, nobody called you either?”) to Tovah Feldshuh in “Kissing Jessica Stein” and the humor of Sarah Silverman.

Antler also interviews Jewish mothers and includes their voices, speaking directly of their lives. One 97-year-old Sephardic mother of five who was born in Turkey spoke of having “a paradise in my home.”

Antler, who has been teaching at Brandeis for 28 years, is the proud Jewish mother of two daughters, and she’s admittedly quite involved in their lives.

“I’ve come to embrace the label, more so than I ever did before,” she said. One daughter is a stand-up comic who enjoys making fun in her monologue of having a feminist Jewish mother — a mother who encourages her not to wait for a man to shovel the snow for her but to put on a warm coat and get out there.

When you show up empty-handed on the first day of your young child’s softball practice, and the rest of the mothers all seem to be bearing bags of doughnuts for the coach, you realize that they know something that you don’t. “What the Other Mothers Know,” by Michelle Gendelman, Ilene Graff and Donna Rosenstein (Harper), is a smart, practical, funny and hip guide.

The Los Angeles-based authors, who describe themselves as not professionals like Dr. Spock or Dr. Phil but “three Dr. Moms, hands-on working parents” who have to budget their time and money, share advice that’s generous in spirit, especially geared to first-time moms.

There’s nothing of the competitive attitude that marks the so-called “mommy wars,” as they offer their version of a maternal E-Z Pass, culled from those with older kids and good memories. First-timers will learn about what other mothers seem to already know about preschool enrollment, finding good baby sitters and getting around the rules of school uniforms.

Yiddishe Mamas book cover
When I saw Judy Gold’s show, “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” off-Broadway, I laughed and cried and called my sister as soon as I left the theater and told her that she had to get tickets. Gold’s new book, “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother” (Voice), written with playwright Kate Moira Ryan, is based on the show and organized into 25 chapters of questions, ranging from “What makes a Jewish mother different from a non-Jewish mother?” to “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do as a mother?”

Gold’s monologue — here presented as narrative — is based on her own adventures growing up in suburban New Jersey and now as the mother of two sons, along with the voices of 50 Jewish mothers she and Ryan interviewed around the country over a five-year period.

“I am not the typical Jewish mother I make fun of in my act,” she writes. “I’ve always wanted to be the ‘young and fun’ kind of mom and not some secondary character in a Philip Roth novel. For most of my adult life, I have struggled with the conflicts of being Jewish as well as being gay and being a comedian as well as a mother. Honestly, what Jewish mother do you know who spends her evening in smoky clubs full of drunk people, shouting obscenities over the sound of a blender, and the next day drops off her kids at Hebrew school?”