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An ode to the Jewish mom

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NOVEMBER 12, 2018

Updated 7/13/21: This article has been updated to remove the photo of an individual whose personal safety was under threat.

The Jewish mom is a fascinating creature. Often found in the kitchen, she can make any room her territory. The preferred source of sustenance is her children’s smiles. Be careful when approaching this specimen — you may find yourself the victim of forced feeding and excessive hugging. The Israeli mom, “Ima” in Hebrew, is a specific subsection of the Jewish mom; their added characteristics consist of somehow knowing every person you see in public and a penchant for ‘60s Hebrew songs that you’re surprised were ever released.

These moms are figures like no other. They are often stereotyped as overbearing, neurotic, guilt-inflicting authorities. And while they can be that, they are so much more. Sure, my mom and I may disagree on many things, such as politics, music and fashion, but, we both agree that Colin Jost should be my husband, and hey — why hasn’t he called me yet? Aggressively food-pushing, over-caring, excessively maternal  — I love them all. Okay, fine, these stereotypes apply to all moms, but please, let me have this.

There is a stereotype that Jews want their children to become one of three things: a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant. My mom never held me to such scrupulous standards. Whatever ephemeral passion I’d experience, she’d encourage me to pursue it. Actress? Sure thing. Taekwondo ninja expert? You go, Melody! I remember always being confused when I heard stereotypes of Jewish moms as strict and guilt-inducing. My mother was always accepting and encouraging. Furthermore, most of my friends with similar backgrounds echoed this upbringing, being encouraged to follow their dreams rather than pushed toward specific careers. Hmm, maybe none of us are actually Jewish. That would explain my distaste for gefilte fish.

Ima has tricks up her sleeves. I remember being 15 and her whispering to me, her eyes smiling, that I’m her favorite child. Later on, in an argument with my sister over which one of us is marrying Paul Rudd, I boasted about being Ima’s favorite. My sister, Lyric, stood astonished.

“She said I’m her favorite!”

Ima had double-crossed us. We had been misled. But, I didn’t feel betrayal as much as mirth at my mom’s cunning assignment of my sister and me as dual confidants. Besides, I knew that my mom was just saying that to make my sister feel better and that my mom was telling me the truth.

It’s always difficult to use the written word to explain just exactly how much you care. Words can never express the extent of adoration one feels. I feel like I need a mode more unique than words. I shouldn’t use the same method so many others in the past have used to explain my love. My mom deserves something different and better because she is different and better.

But, I’m not artistically talented. My drawings resemble that of a preschooler whose proudest achievement is making the line straight on their stick figure. My music sounds like the soundtrack of the worst movie you’ve ever watched, complete with an unnecessary guitar solo. Thus, I have settled on using words. Every time something significant happens, my mother is the first person I want to tell. She is the first person I tell; my list of calls consists of a mix of “Ima” and “Local Domino’s.”

I’ve realized that I will never have somebody who loves me as much as my mother. Sometimes, that thought frightens me. But on the whole, the thought reassures and grounds me — it’s genuinely beautiful to know that such irrevocable, all-encompassing love can even exist in the first place. I’ve realized this love and now see it everywhere. Every time I go to a park and see a mother pushing her child on the swing, I notice the clear twinkle of adoration sparkling in the mom’s eyes. Whenever I see a mom holding hands with her kid as they walk down the street, I can just tell that there is no other place the mom would rather be.

Call your mom. She misses you just as much as you miss her.

Melody Niv writes the Monday blog on her experience as a Jewish and Israeli-American. Contact her at [email protected] .

JULY 13, 2021