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.

(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.



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