On Father's Day, Whither the Jewish Dad?

'J-Mom' Stereotypes Abound But Hubbies Are on Sidelines

Henpecked?: In ‘A Serious Man,’ Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlberg) feels put-upon by his wife Judith (Sarah Lennick).
Focus Features
Henpecked?: In ‘A Serious Man,’ Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlberg) feels put-upon by his wife Judith (Sarah Lennick).

By Lenore Skenazy

Published June 10, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Happy Jewish Father’s Day — and you know what that means, right?

Well, actually, you probably don’t. Because unlike Jewish mothers, who’ve got a stereotype that just won’t die (not even if it goes outside without a sweater), Jewish fathers are not defined as any one thing. Which got me wondering: Why not?

Why are us J-moms the butt of so many jokes, stories and songs — well, jokes and stories, anyway — while Jewish dads sit on the sidelines of pop culture, smoking their pipes and carving scrimshaw?

Or… whatever it is they’re doing? They just don’t have the same definitive brisket-braising/doctor-raising image that the moms of our tribe do. “I asked my dad, ‘What’s the stereotypical Jewish father?’’’ said Shaun Eli Breidbart, comedian and executive director of The Ivy League of Comedy, a troupe that does “clean” comedy at colleges and other venues. “He said: ‘I’m busy. Go ask your mother.’’’

The point being that Jewish fathers tend to defer to their wives. But how is that a particularly Jewish trait, considering most men defer to their wives on at least some topics: “Honey, do I like red snapper?”

“The stereotype is, the Jewish husband does whatever the Jewish wife wants,” said Ellie Hirsch, a Tampa, Fla., mom of three who gives parenting advice under the moniker The Mommy Master. “That’s why Jewish husbands are so fantastic!”

Hardly, says author Elliott Katz, whose 2005 anti-wishy-washiness manifesto, “Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants,” has been translated into 24 languages. The stereotypical Jewish father, Katz believes, is “henpecked by a domineering stereotypical Jewish mother. [He’s] doing whatever she wants, in the hopes that maybe one day she will be happy.”

Which is exactly what Hirsch was saying — whooping about, actually — except to Katz this is a problema, and to Hirsch it’s unbelievably great. Both perspectives are pretty well represented in this joke, repeated by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center: “There are two friends who have a 40-year friendship. Sit next to each other every Sabbath. We will call them Steve and Joe. Steve passes away, precedes Joe by only four days. When Joe goes to heaven, he has to find Steve. He asks where the recently deceased people are. There are two lines. The first is filled with hundreds of people. The title of the line is ‘Henpecked husbands.’ Joe looks up and down the line and does not see Steve. He walks to the other side and sees one person in a line: Steve. The line is for ‘Liberated Husbands.’ Joe is confused and asks him why he’s in this line. Steve replies: ‘What can I do? My wife says I should stand here.’”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.