The Jewish mother is traditionally the heart of the family. How has modern life changed the role of mothers in Jewish families? Despite technological advances, shifting social norms, and changing fashions, the soul of a Jewish mother remains strong from generation to generation.
In the newly released book, Secrets of a Jewish Mother (Dutton, 2010) a family of women share their inner thoughts about love, live, and being a Jewish mother. Jill Zarin, Lisa Wexler, and their mother Gloria Kamin candidly discuss the issues that matter to Jewish families. The authors are known from the Bravo TV show The Real Housewives of New York City, but each is a successful businesswoman in her own field and more importantly, a Jewish Mother.
Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, each of the women weigh in on some difficult topics, including inter-faith dating, difficult in-laws, and divorce. The book is full of Jewish wisdom and a bit of schmaltz. Reading Secrets of a Jewish Mother is like a sitting around the kitchen table with a pot of coffee and a chocolate bobka, listening to advice from old friends. I was thrilled the authors could take time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their book.
Lisa, in Secrets of a Jewish Mother your personal anecdotes are both revealing and inspiring. I admire you all for sharing your stories so candidly. What was the writing process like with three unique perspectives?
We came up with a structure for the book that allowed us to integrate stories from each of us. We called it “context, framework, action”. The context were the chapter summaries and conclusions, the framework was the stories and the action was the “ask yourself” piece.
I came up with the idea for the book and led the writing process. I circulated drafts of each chapter in the context form, then asked Mom and Jill for their stories to flesh out what we were trying to say. Thanks to the beauty of email, the process went quite smoothly. I am very pleased that you can hear three voices in the book.
Gloria, my own grandmother used to say “Little children, little problems, big children big problems.” Now that your children are grown, does the worry lessen or multiply? Does a Jewish mother ever exhale?
Your grandmother and I have a lot in common. In fact, my husband Sol is fond of saying that as well. I consider my daughters to be my daughters until the day I die. Period. And their children are an extension of me as well. So the worry does not lessen at all. Sometimes it multiplies as their lives become more complex and the demands upon them increase. I worry about their economic well-being, their health and the parenting challenges they face. As we said in the book, worry is the default setting in the brain of the Jewish mother.
Lisa, you have had two high-powered careers, as an attorney and a radio host. How does your role as a Jewish mother affect your professional interactions?
I have always considered myself an ambassador for the Jewish people in anything and everything I have done. Maybe this was because I grew up in the Five Towns, from where I had to always fight against the “JAP” stereotype. I always felt I was being judged both on the face of my own personality, and as a Jewish woman.
As a Jewish mother, common to most mothers, my main priority is my children and family. I look at my life as a wheel, trying to balance career, family, friends and community. When one piece of the wheel takes up too much space, it is time to scale back.
In terms of my professional interactions, I hope that I bring to them to values I learned from my own parents, namely, to speak up, whether it be for myself or anyone else. I advocate for clients, I speak up against injustice where I see it, and I am certainly there to inquire, investigate and advocate for my children.
Jill, As a recognizable personality do you feel an added responsibility of representing Jewish mothers?
Yes and No. I don’t claim to know it all and in fact I say that in the book. I just try to be a good person and be the best I can be.
Finally, I asked the authors if they have any favorite Jewish children’s books and both Lisa and Jill mentioned the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor!
Jill, Lisa, and Gloria, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for celebrating Jewish Mothers everywhere!
To learn more about The Secrets of a Jewish Mother, please visit:http://secretsofajewishmother.com/