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Mothers

Food, Fat, and Feminism: Navigating the Contradictions of Judaism and Food

We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the zaftig Jewish bubbe, stuffing her offspring with chicken soup and brisket, shouting, “Eat! Eat! You’re skin and bones.” We love to talk about these mythical kitchens of our childhoods—tables overflowing with kugels and babkas, tsimmus and kneidlach. But for many Jewish women, there was another, more painful, side to this abundance. Our bubbes didn’t just say, “Eat! Eat!” they also said “Why are you eating so much? You’re getting fat!” I don’t think this contradiction is unique to Judaism, but I do think there’s a distinctive cultural spin to this schizophrenic relationship to food. And considering the prevalence of eating disorders, if there are cultural roots, we need to weed them out.

How Poverty Became a Women’s Issue

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, a government response to a national poverty rate around 19%. Back then, the face of poverty in the States was those living in inner-city projects or Appalachian shacks. Today the face of poverty is women.

According to Maria Shriver (on the Atlantic), of the more 100 million Americans living close to or under the poverty line, nearly 70% are women and children. Forget having it all; these women just want to be able to feed their kids and pay their electric bill.

Nicole Hollander

Nicole Hollander is the creator and writer of the syndicated cartoon strip Sylvia, which appears in over 40 newspapers nationwide. Hollander’s cartoons have been collected and published in 16 books. In addition to writing and illustrating, she currently teaches a course in conceptual illustration at Columbia College in Chicago.

Feminism: Being Free to Make Your Own Decisions

Today we welcome our first post from Marissa Harrington-Verb, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

My mother, Elisa Harrington-Verb, loves feminism. But more importantly, my mother loves motherhood. She is the most devoted and loving mother that my little brother Sawyer and I could have wished for. When we were young, she stayed home with us all day. She slept next to us at night, and she breastfed us until we decided for ourselves it was time to wean. I love her more than anything, and if you had tried to tell me back then that she was raising me wrong, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

I had no idea that my mother’s relationship with us was something she had to defend.

Jewish, Feminist, & Strong: Lessons from my Role Model

Today we welcome our first post from Hannah Elbaum, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.

My parents don’t talk about feminism.

It’s not a taboo topic, just not one we typically discuss around the dinner table- or ever, for that matter.

But, feminism is not lacking in my household. My parents equally share responsibilities of taking care of a house, three kids, and their respective jobs. Still, the words “equality of opportunity,” or “feminism” have rarely been said aloud under this roof.

The Womb from which the World Came

Judaism does not shy away from the pain of these longings on Rosh Hashanah—in fact, it confronts them head on. This year more than ever I am struck by the stories we read about Sarah and Hannah during these two days. During the holiday we read of Sarah’s yearning for a child and her surprise at conceiving even after her cycle had stopped. And of Hannah’s burning desire for a child that, after many years, finally came to be. What connects these stories of barren women yearning for children and the name of Rosh Hashanah as Hayom Harat Olam (the Day of the World’s Conception)?

My/Her Tattoo

I knew when I went to get my first tattoo that the hardest part wouldn’t be the pain (although it did hurt quite a bit), it would be telling my mother. I had the idea when I was living in Israel, where I fell in love with Hebrew–its twists and turns and calligraphy were captivating to me. Chazak, strength, meant to me that I would always be strong, even in moments of weakness or distress.

Fatherhood Greatness

When other people tell me about what their partner’s do to raise their babies, I want to suggest they look into a rebate program, as Charles is so clearly kicking their butts. At our birth class reunion parents were talking about how the fathers sometimes “help out” or “let the moms sleep in.” The frames people were using were that childrearing was this thing moms did, and sometimes the dads heroically stepped in to do a small amount for their wives’ projects. The dads might change a diaper!

Jeanne Manford, 1920 - 2013

Jeanne Sobelson Manford was born in Flushing, Queens. She was married and the mother of three when she graduated from Queens College in 1964. For the next 26 years, she was an elementary school math teacher at PS 32 in Queens; she retired in 1990.

In the early 1970s, she put into action the simple but radical concept — parents of LGBT people helping each other to accept their children and get over their own upset about their kids’ sexual orientation.

For the Love of Children

My heartbreak was saved by a friend who watched my interaction with groups of children on playgrounds and in schools who told me that because I didn’t have other children, my heart was big enough to hold everyone else’s. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mothers." (Viewed on September 22, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/mothers>.

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