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 3 of 3)

Meantime, their far-fewer female counterparts — Joan Rivers, Totie Fields — made fun of their boobs, their weight, themselves, but not their parents. It was hard enough to be a woman comedian at all, Ellen Scolnic and Joyce Eisenberg, co-writers known as The Word Mavens, told me. For gals, self-deprecation was the way to go, not daddy deprecation (which sounds vaguely obscene).

But perhaps the most basic reason for the fuzziness of the Jewish father stereotype goes back further than even the Borscht Belt. “From a historical perspective, the answer is simple,” said Lynn Berger, a career counselor and relationship coach in New York City. “Judaism is a maternal-based religion. Jews take the religion of their mother.” So whatever is most “Jewish” is considered Jewish-mother-ish, not Jewish-father-ish, because moms represent the religion.

For example, Berger said, her husband called their son the other day to say, “Your mom loves it when you’re home from college and spend time with her.”

“What about him?” Berger asked about her husband. He loves to see their son just as much as she does. “I believe he was speaking through me.”

So maybe that’s the typical Jewish father: Someone not so very different from the typical Jewish mother — worried, loving, child-centered — except with less cultural baggage. He may not be joke material, but he provides in other ways.

No word on whether he can braise a brisket.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and the founder of the book “Free-Range Kids” and the blog of the same name. Her show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery/TLC International.


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!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • 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.