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.
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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.


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