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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.