FANDOM


WikEd fancyquotesQuotesBug-silkHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extensionPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifierAnalysisPhoto linkImage LinksHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Mr. Sheffield: My mother derives sustenance by criticizing everything in my life.

Fran: Yeah? So? Oh, I keep forgetting you're not Jewish.

A Stock Character that makes frequent appearances in Jewish comedy, the stereotypical Jewish Mother is overbearing, emotionally manipulative, and persists on interfering in her children's lives long after they've become adults.

Usually, she'll speak with a Yiddish accent and will often be heard boasting about her offspring ("my son, the doctor...") when she isn't nagging them. The only option in life for her children is college and (for the girls) marrying a Nice Jewish Boy (often parsed even more with "A nice Ashkenazic boy" or "A nice Ashkenazic doctor" or "A nice Ashkenazic doctor with an apartment in New York and plenty of frequent flier miles to visit your mother whom you never call anymore"). Likewise, a Jewish son is expected to bring home a nice Jewish girl. No matter how nice, however, this girl will not be good enough. Heaven forbid he marries a Shiksa Goddess.

A related Stock Character is the stereotypical Jewish Grandmother: just as much meddling and interest in the personal lives of her decendants, but more likely to provide highly caloric snacks (did we mention that being a Supreme Chef is part of the stereotype?). The Jewish Grandmother is the occasional ally of her grandchildren, as she can use on their mother the techniques of guilt and shame that their mother does on them: "Why don't you let the kids play more? Study, study, study all the time is not good for them! And then they're too tired to even visit their grandmother. Are you trying to keep me from seeing them?" "No mama..." "You be quiet! Now bring me that brisket before you ruin it."

Similar stereotypes about mothers and grandmothers are common throughout the Mediterranean Basin among Arabs, Berbers, Turks, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, and Latin Americans. On the other hand, the stereotype is seen as uniquely Polish in Israel itself (apparently, the other Ashkenazim don't think it applies to them--not that there are all that many non-Polish Ashkenazim--and the first-generation Sephardic Jews just saw it as "isn't that just how all moms are?" because their Muslim and Christian Arab or Iranian neighbors had the same stereotype).

Surprisingly, the otherwise northern European Scots suffer... erm... enjoy a variation on this trope with their own mothers. Poles and Russians (and Ukrainians, and Belorussians) are also in the same camp, because, well, Ashkenazi Jews are just as much Poles/Russians as they are Jews. And any mother of an adult character who hails from New York City will come off this way, whether Jewish or not.

Expect a more passive-aggressive form of Jews Love to Argue with her. Heck, she's a master of Passive-Aggressive Kombat.

A Sub-Trope of My Beloved Smother.

See also I Have No Son, Jewish Complaining, Mommy Issues (when this trope goes way, way over the edge), Drama Queen. Can sometimes overlap with Education Mama.

Examples of Jewish Mother include:


Advertising

  • Beattie (Maureen Lipman), the middle-aged London Jewish mother in the British Telecom TV ads.

 Beattie (Sitting next to the phone, talking to a photo of her son): So you can't phone. You can't pick up a phone and dial. You got maybe something wrong with your finger. It's a phobia. You're telephobic.

The phone rings. Beattie picks up.

Son (VO, phone): Hello, Mum.

Fade out. Fade in on Beattie putting the phone down.

Beattie (to the photo): So you can't visit. You can't call round. You can only phone. Never mind. It's a pleasure to hear your voice. (pause) Little more often wouldn't hurt...

  • The VHS promo The Invasion of Nintendo has the "invaders" torturing Ken Lobb by bringing in his mother, who nags him mercilessly until he gives them strategies for Killer Instinct.
  • Plymouth used a stock comic Jewish Mother in late '60s muscle car ads, harping to her son about his 'Bananacuda'.

Film

  • Karen's mom in Goodfellas, right down to berating Henry for staying out too late. When they first meet, the first thing she says to Henry is "Karen tells me you're only half-Jewish." Henry is half-Italian, half-Irish, and was wearing a cross before Karen hurriedly made him cover it up so she wouldn't see it.
  • The Hebrew Hammer has this literally, which isn't surprising, considering the source.
  • Timon's Ma from The Lion King 1½
  • Seymour's mother from the original The Little Shop of Horrors. On top of the usual stereotypes, she's also an extreme hypochondriac, to the point where Seymour has been led to believe that all normal food is prepared by adding medicines to it.
  • Although she doesn't have much screentime, the protagonist's mother in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (played by Shelley Winters) somehow manages to dominate the movie (and of course she manages to drive her son up the walls when she drops by)
  • Woody Allen's mother in New York Stories, who disappears in a magician's disappearing act. Her disembodied head appears floating above New York City to drive her son mad.
  • Mother Gothel from Tangled has an air of this trope to herself. However, the cut verse of "Mother Knows Best" is basically a tribute to Jewish mothers is fiction.

 Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino!

Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead!

Me, I'm just your mother, what do I know?

I only bathed and changed and nursed you!

Go ahead and leave me. I deserve it.

Let me die alone here. Be my guest.

When it's too late you'll see, just wait.

Mooooooother knows best!

  • A Catholic version in Saturday Night Fever: Mrs. Manero is always criticizing and guilt-tripping Tony and dotes on her older son Frankie the Priest. She is absolutely crushed when she finds out Frankie is leaving the priesthood, and ends up disowning him for "disgracing the family."
  • Aram's mother in The Rebound.
  • In The Last Temptation of Christ, Mary (Jesus's mother) is portrayed this way. Word of God is it was a deliberate choice by director Martin Scorsese.
  • In Monty Python's Life of Brian, the title character's mother guilt-trips him while he's on the cross: "Go ahead, be crucified. See if I care."
  • In La Vérité si je mens, a comedy set in the French Sephardic Jewish community, a couple is in bed late at night when they hear the doorbell ring. "Who could show up at such an hour?" the husband asks. "Your mother?" the wife suggests. "No," the husband retorts, "my mother has her own set of keys!"

Humor

  • There's an old joke about the first Jewish President of the United States. At his swearing-in ceremony, his mother leans over to the person next to her and says, "His brother's a doctor."
  • What's the difference between a Jewish Mother and a rabid rottweiler? A rottweiler eventually lets go.

Literature

  • Harlan Ellison's "Mom" is about a Jewish Mother so overbearing that she comes back as a ghost after she dies just so she can continue nagging her son.
  • How To Be A Jewish Mother by Dan Greenberg is the definitive text on the subject. One of the first things noted it is not necessary to be either Jewish or a mother to be a Jewish Mother.
  • Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth.
    • Sophie Portnoy repeatedly nags young Alexander to finish everything on his plate, once even threatening him with a knife when he refuses to eat.
    • During the controversy following Portnoy's publication, a journalist asked Roth's mother if she thought she was a "Jewish Mother". Her reply was "All mothers are Jewish Mothers." Jewish writer/humourist Howard Jacobson has observed that this is certainly true of all comedy mothers.
  • Chiun, Master of Sinanju, is male. And Korean. And the world's deadliest martial artist/professional assassin. And he's still a Jewish Mother to poor, poor Remo...
  • The short story "Pushing the Envelope" by Desmond Warzel begins and ends with arguments between the protagonist and his Jewish Mother.
  • Waldo Butters in The Dresden Files has one and Bob, who is his temporary Companion Cube, imitates her. Complete with Yiddish accent. Harry finds this hilarious.

Live Action TV

  • Mrs. Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory.
  • Mrs. Seinfeld and Mrs. Costanza from Seinfeld.
  • Used in an episode of Frasier involving Frasier's new Jewish girlfriend and her mother. The mother is so involved in her daughter's life that arguments on the subject have apparently become routine. When one such fight breaks out and Frasier asks if he should leave the room, the mother casually answers, "Sit, we're nearly finished."
  • Nanny Fine's mother Silvia Fine and Silvia's mother Yetta, who acts as both Jewish Grandmother to Fran and the Sheffield children and the occasional Jewish Mother to Silvia.
  • In some ways, Grace's mother from Will and Grace is like this - Grace remembers being told "...the classic Dr Seuss story; One Fish, Two Fish, Goy Fish, Jew Fish" by her mother.
  • Cuddy's mother in House. Made all the more annoying by the fact that she's a convert.
  • In British sitcom So Haunt Me a Gentile family moves into a house haunted by its previous owner Yetta Feldman (Miriam Karlin), who treats a Christian exorcism with scorn ("Gevalt, have you got the wrong sort of ghost!") and then becomes Jewish Mother from beyond the grave to the entire family.

Mythology

  • Many interpretations of Demeter turn her into this. Perhaps most notably in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

 You could've married the god of doctors or the god of lawyers, but noooo. You had to eat the pomegranate.

Newspaper Comics

  • Momma is almost entirely this trope.

Real Life

  • Some believe that Peter Sellers' overbearing mother was partly responsible for his personal issues. The biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers makes it look like she was almost single-handedly responsible.
  • The Israeli Merkava tank, was once described as "A cross between a mass of rumbling destruction and a Jewish mother".
  • The famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin's mother who "ruled her children with a rod of iron".

Theater

  • Ida Bogen in I Can Get It For You Wholesale is very maternal and Jewish, though she can hardly be called manipulative when compared to her son Harry, a superlative Manipulative Bastard.
  • Mark Cohen's mom from Rent.
  • Claire's mother (not the eponymous mother) in My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
  • Albert Peterson's dithering mother in Bye Bye Birdie is often portrayed this way, even though we're never given any reason to believe that the Peterson family is Jewish.

Web Comics

  • Harley's mother in Boy Meets Boy. She doesn't show up much, but she notably nagged Harley about his boyfriend Mik for a pretty long time, trying to get him to date her friend's son (who was a doctor) instead.
  • Elizabeth's mother in Better Days constantly voices her disapproval of Fisk and tries to hook Elizabeth up with nerdy Jewish boys.
  • Abe's mother in Alien Loves Predator. Fulfills the whole range of Jewish Mother stereotypes, despite being a Xenomorph Queen...

Web Original

  • In A Very Potter Musical, Molly Weasley is implied to be this trope.
  • In The Onion's news videos, one ticker item read, "Jewish Scientists Discover New Way to Disappoint Parents".

Western Animation

  • Sheila Broflovski, Kyle's mom, from South Park. She's started wars over being protective of her son. Well, a war, with Canada in The Movie, albeit one that inadvertently lead to the Apocalypse. Good thing the Reset Button managed to get pressed...
  • Harold's mother on Hey Arnold.
  • From The Simpsons: "A grizzly bear stands 7 feet tall, weighs like a Mazda Miata, and can tear through a tree like a Jewish Mother through self-esteem."
  • In Futurama, Dr. Zoidberg's aunt first criticizes him for wanting to become a comedian instead of a doctor, then for giving up his dream of becoming a comedian to go to medical school.
  • Snot's mom in American Dad appears to be this in her appearance in "Moon Over Isla Island", but when Steve and Snot actually talk about her in other episodes it's reveiled that she's actually an alcoholic slut who steals money from hers son.
  • A minor character on Drawn Together once described her mother as an "incredibly Jewish woman." Definitely Informed Judaism, since it's the one and only time in the episode the character brings up her (alleged) Jewishness.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Although initially established as being descended from a line of Christian Jews, when Egon's mother is eventually introduced, she's revealed as being one of these, to the extent where she'll mother the entire team including the secretary, Janine. Of course, Janine is used to it, given that her mother is one as well.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.