Mother’s Day the Jewish Way

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Mother’s Day the Jewish Way

For Orthodox Jewish mums Mother’s Day  is just another (very busy) day

Naomi is a freelance features writer

Hasidic mothers in Stamford Hill, @hasidim_in_stamford_hill Instagram
Hasidic mothers in Stamford Hill, @hasidim_in_stamford_hill Instagram

“Mother’s Day?” my Jewish mother scoffs when hearing about the latest article I’ve undertaking. “Mother’s Day is every day when you’re Jewish!”

She wags her finger in mock outrage. She’s right (as usual).

Mothering Sunday, as it’s officially known, is a Christian festival that falls every year on the fourth day of Lent, the Christian period of fasting that leads up to Easter. However, respecting your mother and father is one of the Ten commandments, so my mother’s observations make perfect sense.

My mum and me

I still can’t help musing that for Jewish mothers, guilt-tripping their children is the 11th commandment. Dan Greenburg, author of the 1964 comedic bestseller How to be A Jewish Mother: A Very Lovely Training Manual, clearly agrees with me ,as he has dedicated an entire chapter to this art form. He assesses that “underlying all techniques of Jewish motherhood is the ability to plant, cultivate and harvest guilt. Control guilt and you control the child.”

Part of the manual’s charm is the amusing use of diagrams to illustrate points made. A favourite of mine under the heading The Jewish Mother’s Guide to Food Distribution illustrates the correct interpretation of the phrase ‘sliver of food’. A sliver as defined by Greenburg is “any portion of food smaller than a breadbox.”

Greenburg further notes that “just as Mother Nature abhors a vacuum, the Jewish Mother abhors an empty mouth. It shall therefore be your purpose as a Jewish Mother to fill every mouth you can reach with nourishing food.”

“So true!” I laugh uproariously on a video call with one of my best friends, Patricia, as we reminisce about a trip to her Persian parents in Great Neck, NY some years ago. Her mother, a skinny, glamorous woman with a perfect blow-dry, piled our plates high with Tahdig (Persian rice) and Khoresh (Persian stew), beaming proudly as we enthusiastically scarfed it down. I ate and ate, but apparently two portions is the very minimum a Persian Jewish mother expects, because when I hugged her goodbye, and thanked her for the meal, she exclaimed: “Thank me for what? You eat nothing!!”

Greenburg tells Jewish mothers that “between meals, follow guests about the house with trays of fruit, nuts, candies, cookies, cakes and sour pickles. Eating should never be restricted to the dining table, particularly if there is some question of health involved.”

“Have you been reading this book, Mum?” I inquire, showing her the page while munching through a large plate of assorted fruit she’s just brought me.

“I’m just worried that you’ve not been eating enough fruit,” she says. “It’s important, to be able to go to the bathroom properly you know.”

It seems absolutely nothing changes when it comes to the traditional Jewish mother regardless of where they reside.

Libby Amber Walker

Libby Amber Walker, native New Yorker and content creator, who has 50.5k Tiktok followers has been dubbed ‘The Modern Mrs Maisel’ and is known for her hilarious portrayal of character Sheryl Cohen (everyone’s go-to Jewish mum). With Libby’s own mother occasionally making a cameo in her Tiktoks, she touches upon everyday Jewish mother-daughter experiences, covering topics such as shopping, going to restaurants together and finding a nice Jewish boy for her to marry via LinkedIn.

My own mother prefers going via word of mouth (so far unsuccessfully).

I was raised in Stamford Hill, the square mile of Jewish motherhood, and a Shabbat spent there reveals that for these mothers, every day really is Mother’s Day.


Raizy, 48, was married at 19 and is a mother of 12. Her house is packed to the gunnels, much like the dining room table, which groans under an array of leftover salads, kugel, schnitzel and half a challah, waiting to be consumed for seudah shlishit (the third meal). Raizy tells me that any leftovers are eaten on Sunday. I comment on how tasty and crispy the schnitzels are. “That’s cos I bash them and make them flat” shouts her four-year-old son Shloimy.

“Another secret is adding lemon to the egg mixture,” Raizy confides. She generously rattles off the recipe. Raizy and other mums in the area could teach Dan Greenburg a thing or two about being a Jewish mother.

Offering me some still warm kugel (thanks to the Shabbat hotplate) she informs me that “Thursday is kugel-making time and the older girls help me with the peeling etc.”

The girls in question are her four teenage daughters, close in age, all sitting round the Shabbat table as we chat. They remind me of the characters in Little Women especially Bella, 18, who, like Amy in the novel, loves the finer things in life, always does her hair stylishly and buys her outfits from local boutiques.

Mother’s Day is just another day for Orthodox mums; @hasidim_in_stamford_hill

It’s busy and hectic already, but the noise ramps up when eldest daughter Chaya, 22, arrives with her husband and kleine (little) baby. Chaya and Raizy, who look more like sisters than mother and daughter, reveal that it’s quite common for mothers in the Stamford Hill community to have babies at the same time as their daughters.

Their neighbour, Peshy, 39, confirms this, telling me that she and her 19-year-old daughter were recently in hospital at the same time giving birth, and then recuperated together at Beis Brucha, an Orthodox mother-and-baby home.

“It’s a mechaya (marvel) there,” she gushes. “Amazing gourmet meals and a night nurse to make sure you get a good night’s sleep!”

Peshy says she’s heard of Mother’s Day “but we have nothing to do with it as it’s a non-Jewish holiday”. I question whether she thinks hardworking heimishe mothers in particular deserve a day just for them but incredibly, she dismisses this. “Why should we? It’s our tafkid (purpose) and it’s a joy to run a home.” “But what about presents?” I press. “Presents, shmesents” she retorts. “The biggest present is that the kinderlach (children) are good, that they behave well and bring me nachas.”


I ask Peshy if she thinks girls in the community are equipped to be mothers so young. “Sure! We learn on the job! And we have lots of experience from helping in our own homes so we’re all very capable,” she announces proudly.

“Do you still work when you’re married with kids?” I ask. “That depends,” says Peshy. “Often, when the children are very little there’s no time and when they’re older you’re busy trying to marry them off!” Indeed, one of Peshy’s daughters has just gotten engaged, to a boy she met that same day for an hour and a half! Another fledgling Jewish mother for a Mother’s Day that is every day for this hectic, heart-warming community.

How to be A Jewish Mother: A Very Lovely Training Manual is available from for £21.99 or can be downloaded for free at

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