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Jewesses with Attitude

Jewish Mother Jokes: Insulting or Not?

Q: What did the waiter ask the group of dining Jewish mothers?

A: "Is anything all right?"

I know, it should aggravate me when I read jokes like this because they perpetuate the idea that Jewish women are loud and demanding. As a Jewish female, I’d certainly like to break the stereotype that all Jewish women are one-dimensional cartoon characters.

But when you think about it, these traits, which are clearly being ridiculed in Jewish mother jokes, are actually something to be proud of. Being “loud” and “demanding” is what it often takes to provoke people into change. Someone has got to shake up the old system; and demure, people pleasers are at a major disadvantage when it comes to shaking things up. Outspoken is where it’s at.

Case in point: Dr. Abby Shevitz served as Resident Physician and one of the first female Chief Residents at Boston City Hospital. Ticked off at the way AIDS patients were being taken care of, Shevitz insisted on a system overhaul that included more warmth and compassion when caring for these patients. Shevitz then went on to develop the first HIV testing protocol at a time when there were no existing guidelines.

Had Shevitz not been demanding and insistent, a whole lot of HIV-infected patients would not have received the emotionally nourishing treatment they deserved.

Case in point: When Barbara Seaman’s aunt died of uterine cancer at age 49, Seaman was told by the doctor never to take Premarin (a conjugated estrogen product used to treat symptoms of menopause) because she might have the same “susceptibilities.” Turns out, Seaman discovered, it had been known for years that estrogen frequently brings on cancer in the endometrium of menopausal women. Infuriated, she became “obsessed with informed consent,” and wrote articles about health from the patient’s point of view. Seaman went on to write a book expose on the dangers of the estrogen levels in the Pill, and then a letter to Senator Gaylord Nelson, describing how the Pill was making women sick. Nelson began to hold hearings in the Senate about the dangers of the Pill in January 1970, and by June, anyone who took the Pill received an FDA warning--the first warning label for any prescription drug.

Had Seaman not been demanding and insistent, a whole lot more women would surely have become extremely sick from the high estrogen levels in the Pill.

So, yes, loud, outspoken Jewish women in restaurants may be a laughing matter to some, but let’s remember that the women who complain that “things are not all right” (see joke above) are often the same women who push to make things a whole lot better for the rest of us.

What do you think?

How to cite this page

Cove, Michelle. "Jewish Mother Jokes: Insulting or Not?." 2 May 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 24, 2017) <>.


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