A Gentile’s Guide To Jewish Mamas

The wonderful world of Jewish culture was somewhat thrust upon me when I met my future (Jewish) boyfriend on the train. It was love at first...
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The wonderful world of Jewish culture was somewhat thrust upon me when I met my future (Jewish) boyfriend on the train. It was love at first...

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WAIT!

Scrap that intro. I have to be honest from the very beginning here. It was my boyfriend’s Jewish Mama that actually started chatting to me on the Bakerloo Line. It was her who encouraged her son to race back on to the carriage as the doors were closing (somewhere, in a parallel universe, he’s dating a pixie cropped Gwyneth Paltrow) and ask me for my number. And it was her who, when things didn’t work out, tracked me down through my model agency, and then doggedly made sure me and her son were constantly in the same social situations, subtly hinting to me, “why don’t you go out with my boy? He’s so handsome,” at every opportunity. Meanwhile, any girl he liked was “Nice – but not Rebecca.” And, fair play, here I am, happily with her handsome son, but also - where many others have failed before me - on the right side of his Jewish Mama.

Jewish Mamas are famed for being strong matriarchs, women who keep their family together, organised and extremely...extremelywell fed. (‘“Eat! You’re too Skinny!” - My Guide to Navigating Jewish Cuisine Whilst Maintaining Your Waistline’ will come out when I figure out how to do this myself). They are also famed for desiring a true love match for their offspring, matchmaking at all opportunities to attempt to achieve this. Whilst I don’t want to go around making crass cultural generalisations - which I am sure I will be accused of, I can tell you that these characteristics are 100% true of 100% of the sample group of Jewish Mamas that I have met, so deal with those mathematics.

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What happens if you get on the wrong side of a Jewish Mama? She won’t leave you two to it and wait until after you two have broken up and unleash the “well, I did wonder about him/her...” like most parents (or mine, at least) do. No, there’ll be subtle techniques (underhand digs) and not-so-subtle techniques (not inviting you to Passover, not allowing you in her house, constantly telling her child of your affections that she doesn’t like you) employed to ensure you have a fight on your hands. Think you can win? Well maybe you should learn the joke that goes...

”Do you know what the difference between a Rottweiler and A Jewish Mama is?

... The Rottweiler eventually lets go.”

It’s true.

However, do not fear, as, previously fairly unfamiliar with Jewish culture myself, I now pride myself on being well schooled enough in this arena to provide you with a simple guide to navigating relations with your Jewish Mama-in-law, allowing you to build a relationship that is meaningful, respectful and blessed. And then maybe you can go out with her son or daughter.

1) Cook. Food is undeniably a core aspect of Jewish culture, and the Jewish Mama wants to make sure her offspring are heartily fed at all times. Lack of culinary skill in their son or daughter’s other half is met with suspicion and malaise. You don’t need to be Ainsley Harriet - just making the effort is appreciated. Bonus points for attempting Jewish cuisine, minus points for making the whole family hot dogs.

2) Eat. Nothing makes Jewish mama more suspicious than someone who doesn’t eat. Nothing makes her angrier than a fussy eater who doesn’t finish what’s on their plate. On a diet? Wheat intolerant? Vegetarian? Tough. Eat. You’re too skinny!

3) Accept those apron strings: They’ll never be cut. A common error is to try and sever the interdependence between Jewish mama and offspring, but this will cause heartache (for you) as family comes first. So, instead of going against the grain, work with it. Enjoy gaining a whole new family. You will be rewarded ten-fold with challah and love.

4) Convert.