When seeking secrets of Jewish motherhood I realized that their methods were to help them solve THEIR problems. In the Exodus from Egypt [1446 to 1406 BC ?] they were an unorganized mass of sand ramblers [Habiru from which comes the name Hebrew] given God’s instructions and gaining the skills of civility and war they would need to take over Canaan.

When seeking secrets of Jewish motherhood I realized that their methods were to help them solve THEIR problems. In the Exodus from Egypt [1446 to 1406 BC ?] they were an unorganized mass of sand ramblers [Habiru from which comes the name Hebrew] given God’s instructions and gaining the skills of civility and war they would need to take over Canaan.

They were totally destroyed as a nation [70 A.D.] and dispersed [‘diaspora’] throughout the commercial port cities of the Mediterranean Sea. This calamity created a global commercial network linked by kinship and language making them valuable to rich traders and rulers.

While scattered and oppressed and facing repeated oppression and expropriation, Jewish Mothers and rabbis gave their children personal characteristics helping survive individually and collectively. The essence of those skills were ethical and intellectual—valuable to the ruling elite wherever they lived. Perpetually threatened especially after papal persecutions began in the sixteenth century, they were driven inward to their only friends i.e., relatives ,synagogues. Forcibly excluded from the gentile world they congregated in urban areas that eventually were declared “pales”, exclusive Jewish areas within cities. Eventually they were not allowed “beyond the pale” after sundown turning them into ghettos. Having acceptance only inside their pale it was inevitable that they were stigmatized and discriminated against outside their pales.

Mothering the Oppressed

Consequently Jewish Mothers raised their children to survive and thrive with intellectual skills valued in the secular world.. The Jewish Bible is a survival manual of child raising practices. Following the first five books of the Old Testament Jewish Mothers stressed reading, ethics, and community in a time when only 5% of all others were literate. Even foreign rulers and firms conducting commerce between nations found Jewish trading networks useful. These intellectual skills and kinship networks connecting nations gave them refuge , protection, and wealth in an otherwise hostile world enabling them to “bless the world.”

The Chosen Few [1]

Research showed that it was not so much what Jewish mothers did as it was what non-Jewish mothers didn’t do. Jews were often forced to move, and were persecuted, but no matter how much Jewish mothers moved they multiplied and replenished their population quickly because Jewish mothers are and involved. Health and sanitation increased the life chances of Jews. They always religiously washed their hands before eating as well as after relieving themselves or touching anything unclean. They washed before nursing which reduced childhood diarrhea by up to 90% Most Europeans bathed once or twice a year. Jews bathed and cut their nails every Friday before Shabbat. They are legendary for ‘keeping a Kosher kitchen”, inspecting all food and washing and salting meat and poultry [preservatives before refrigeration]. Jewish homes were known for cleanliness long before germs were discovered.

Jewish mothers displayed obsessive love, taking their children to Jewish doctors at te first sneeze, and the doctor was obligated to treat the patient without regard to their abililty to pay. They were ‘early adopters’ of medical advances. They were characterized as ‘fastidious, obsessive, and nit-picky.

Jews were almost universally literate millennia ahead of others. From the time of Moses every Jewish child was to be educated. The Jewish idea was to preserve a nation by promoting learning among all classes through compulsory education millennia before other nations. That system relied totally on Jewish mothers to make it work. Not all girls got a formal education, but more Jewish women than those of other peoples. A child’s education was guaranteed by mothers, and grandmothers . The mother was the one who was able to sit with the child and learn with the child at his or her level, with gentle, loving words. They gained their love for learning from their mothers.

Jewish Mothers typically marry Jewish fathers who don’t spend their weekly paycheck at the pub on their way home on payday—arriving home insufficient funds to support their family, A good Jewish mother needs a good Jewish Father to do her magic.to do her magic.

Hugs

‘Jewish Mother” has become a byword for her deep and consuming care for her children. They provide lots of hugs and kisses. Today science realizes that emotional intelligence [EQ] is more vital than IQ and it is deeply affected by the degree of physical, unconditional closeness one received as a child—as well as higher self-esteem and improved academic performance. Motherly hugging and holding triggers much of the initial neural development of the infant cortex. Jewish parents can never seem to get enough of hugging and kissing their children and grandchildren. As a tribe, culture, or people, Jews are characterized by a high degree of tactility. [2]

Jewish mothers impart a high level of aspiration [LOAsp] among their children and throughout their adult years.A Jewish child grows up expecting to become highly educated in order to go into high-paying occupations. A high LOAsp. is taught, not inherited..

Given their experience at the hands of hostile civil authorities, mothers teach their children to distrust authority. They are taught to ask questions, challenge assumptions [‘givens’] in arguments, to question and be skeptical. Never accept answers that don’t feel right. They love to debate. They are encouraged to find their own passions and pursue them. [3]

[1] Mostly paraphrased passages from The Chosen Few, Princeton University Press, 2012.

[2] Time, ``Oct.22, 2018, p25. “Hugs boost levels of the bonding hormone Ocytocin which provides feelings of social support, and builds a stronger immune system.

[3] Ingall, Marjorie, Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Empathetic, Independent Children, Harmony Books, 2016.

Bob Allison is a Shawnee resident who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where he taught and was Associate to the Director of University Hospitals. He and wife Elaine and he have three children, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. He can be contacted at rfallison100@gmail.com.