Jewish mothers are rising and we are lionesses!
We’re done being mocked for loving our families too fiercely. There can be no “too” much love, as there can never be enough kugel or rugelach (two tasty signs of that love).
Jewish mothers have often been portrayed in movies and TV as meddling, overprotective, domineering, aggressive, pushy, and even a tad bitchy in support of their brood. Is that bad? This is how we do generational trauma!
And now we see the reason for having developed those behaviors playing out right before our eyes. We see the devastated mothers of kidnapped Israelis battling the world to get their children back. We see mothers whose children were killed in a modern-day pogrom and mothers whose children, Israeli soldiers, died as they fought for our survival, bereft, grief-stricken, but still rising with an untamable fierceness to find their children, to protect the memory of their children, to roar in pain.
Does it still seem like a burden that a mother would want to know where her children are and when they’ll be home? Just one, two, three generations ago, it wasn’t a stretch for her to wait with real trepidation and supreme relief to hear from them, to see them, to pamper them.
Is it funny that Jewish mothers seemed to smother their children with constant concern when we are now presented, in the supposedly safe USA, with the reason behind the behavior: vile antisemitism?
It’s clear now why Jewish mothers always need to know where their children are and who they’re with. Today, their children are on campuses where students and professors mass together to call them murderers and chant slogans for the destruction of their people, and where administrators are dangerously silent—where exactly is the line between overbearing and sensibly protecting their children?
It’s clear now that this protective stance may be one of the reasons why Jews have survived through so much destruction and turmoil over the centuries.
Look at those Jewish lionesses whose sons and daughters have been abducted. They are not settling for letting men in high places figure things out quietly or standing behind any man. Nope. Centuries of institutional oppression, wherever we have lived, taught Jewish mothers to be the strength and the backbone of the family. But now, finally, they don’t have to do that quietly, salvaging what is left of a destroyed family—no, they’re demanding to be seen and heard. Let’s heed the cries of these modern versions of our Biblical mothers. They are a force to be reckoned with. And their voices sear our hearts.
I’m in awe of Jewish mothers in Israel. One woman I know has two sons serving in the military, and still she goes out and volunteers, determined to do more to support other people who are suffering. Another mother, with two daughters in the military, provides succor to those with whom she interacts, even as she herself is consumed with worry.
Thinking back to Jewish mothers who sacrificed in ways big and small (which is it when she gives an extra matzoh ball to her children, but only takes a single lumpy one for herself?), nagging them to keep studying so that they can get into the finest schools in the land and have professions that they could take with them wherever they may be forced to live. Now, somehow, they need to protect their children on campuses rife with antisemitism and hate, reminiscent of the baying crowds of the pogroms that drove so many of our ancestors from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
How can it be funny that a Jewish mother sees her children as little princes and princesses? Why not smother your children with things when just a generation ago all was taken and destroyed: all that your family had managed to amass from the previous pogrom or expulsion. I finally understand that being raised as a Jewish American Princess was aspirational and not something by which to be embarrassed.
We Jewish women need to channel our inner lionesses, demanding that all Jewish lives and what happens to them matter.
I recently joined a daily women’s prayer group where we recite tehilim (psalms), as an act of calling to God. I’m not really sure why. But part of me feels that through it I’m establishing a connection with Jewish women in the past for whom prayer was an integral part of their lives, their expression of faith, of that which is within and which they could control. I’m also connecting with other Jewish women in that zoom room who are earnestly praying for safety, victory, and peace. It’s not that I believe in the power of prayer, but I realized who am I to not believe in it. Why not do something that I don’t understand, something through which I send out my voice and my heart.
Once I would have mocked them—me—but now I see nothing to mock in hoping that there is a force that binds the world and that, perhaps, the positive energy that we create can somehow be for the good. We are quiet lionesses. We each need to find a way to express our pain and our hope—to not give in to the drag of fear and anger, but to let our pain lead, somehow, to something better.