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

(page 2 of 3)

To me, this is a way of saying that a “henpecked” (and I’d prefer the term “wife-consulting”) husband ends up better off than someone in a long line.

In any event, the rather hazy Jewish dad stereotype isn’t just about docility; there’s also the idea that he’s a very decent guy — doesn’t drink, doesn’t fool around — which has got to be the loveliest stereotype of any group of people ever.

“We’re probably most seen in actors like Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, who seem to try to please everyone, believe that they’ve failed, and then, in the end, everything works out — much to their surprise,” summed up Michael Kinstlinger, a Web marketing consultant from Baltimore who works from home to take care of his two young daughters.

What’s more, the basic image of Jewish dads includes the belief that they’re willing to work hard to provide for their families. And that work ethic may be the very reason there are fewer jokes — and stereotypes — about them. “When you think of the Jewish father, he wasn’t home,”said David Brimm, a publicist in Deerfield, Ill. “They were working all day. And so most ‘men jokes’ in Jewish humor are about their business partners.”

The jokes aren’t about Dad’s relationship with the kids, because that relationship wasn’t as fraught with all-day-long interactions.

It was also more common to stereotype mothers, because that’s who was raising the budding comedians, adds Brimm, who studies Jewish humnor as an avocation. Most of the comedians who promulgated that stereotype in the midcentury were men, often the children of immigrants, who were trying to become “American.”

Consciously or not, they were embarrassed by the anxious, Old World ways of their moms, who’d grown up in a time and place where it made sense to worry every second. To distance themselves, the men lampooned their mothers.


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.