Maxwell Sheffield: My mother derives sustenance by criticizing everything in my life.A Stock Character that makes frequent appearances in Jewish comedy, the stereotypical Jewish Mother is overbearing, emotionally manipulative, and persists on interfering in her children's lives long after they've become adults. Usually, she'll speak with a Yiddish accent (not for nothing do Jews refer to Yiddish as mammeloshen, literally "mother's tongue") and will often be heard boasting about her offspring ("my son, the doctor...") when she isn't nagging them. The only option in life for her children is college and (for the girls) marrying a nice Jewish boy (often parsed even more with "A nice Ashkenazic boy" or "A nice Ashkenazic doctor" or "A nice Ashkenazic doctor with an apartment in New York and plenty of frequent flier miles to visit your mother whom you never cawl anymore"). Likewise, a Jewish son is expected to bring home a nice Jewish girl. No matter how nice, however, this girl will not be good enough. Heaven forbid he marries a Shiksa Goddess. A related Stock Character is the stereotypical Jewish Grandmother: just as much meddling and interest in the personal lives of her descendants, but more likely to provide them with highly caloric snacks made with plenty of schmaltz (did we mention that being a Supreme Chef is part of the stereotype?). The Jewish Grandmother is the occasional ally of her grandchildren, as she can use on their mother the techniques of guilt and shame that their mother does on them: "Why don't you let the kids play more? Study, study, study all the time is not good for them! And then they're too tired to even visit their grandmother. Are you trying to keep me from seeing them?" "No mama..." "You be quiet! Now bring me that brisket before you ruin it." Similar stereotypes about mothers and grandmothers are common throughout the Mediterranean Basin among Arabs, Berbers, Turks, Greeks, Italians, and Spaniards, as well as among Latin Americans and Asians. On the other hand, the stereotype is seen as uniquely Polish in Israel itself. Apparently, the other Ashkenazim don't think it applies to them — not that there are all that many non-Polish Ashkenazim — and the first-generation Sephardic Jews just saw it as "isn't that just how all moms are?" because their Muslim and Christian Arab or Iranian neighbors had the same stereotype. Surprisingly, the otherwise northern European Scots suffer... erm... enjoy a variation on this trope with their own mothers. Goodness Gracious Me illustrates that on the Indian subcontinent and diaspora, Hindu and Islamic mothers are also a force to be reckoned with and share many characteristics - overbearing nagging and a recourse to inducing guilt in their adult sons, while stuffing everyone with food. Poles and Russians (and Ukrainians, and Belorussians) are also in the same camp, because, well, Ashkenazi Jews are just as much Poles/Russians as they are Jews. And any mother of an adult character who hails from New York City will come off this way, whether Jewish or not (after all, in New York, "even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish"). Expect a more passive-aggressive form of Jews Love to Argue with her. Heck, she's a master of Passive-Aggressive Kombat. A Sub-Trope of My Beloved Smother. See also I Have No Son, Jewish American Princess, Jewish Complaining, Mommy Issues (when this trope goes way, way over the edge), Drama Queen. Can sometimes overlap with Education Mama.
Fran Fine: Yeah? So? Oh, I keep forgetting you're not Jewish.
Fran Fine: Yeah? So? Oh, I keep forgetting you're not Jewish.
— The Nanny, "The Passed-Over Story"
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- Beattie (Maureen Lipman), the middle-aged London Jewish mother in the British Telecom TV ads.
Beattie (Sitting next to the phone, talking to a photo of her son): So you can't phone. You can't pick up a phone and dial. You got maybe something wrong with your finger. It's a phobia. You're telephobic.The phone rings. Beattie picks up.Son (VO, phone): Hello, Mum.Fade out. Fade in on Beattie putting the phone down.Beattie (to the photo): So you can't visit. You can't call round. You can only phone. Never mind. It's a pleasure to hear your voice. (pause) Little more often wouldn't hurt...
- The VHS promo The Invasion of Nintendo has the "invaders" torturing Ken Lobb by bringing in his mother, who nags him mercilessly until he gives them strategies for Killer Instinct.
- Plymouth used a stock comic Jewish Mother in late '60s muscle car ads, harping to her son about his 'Bananacuda'.
- Vladek Spiegelman from Art Spiegelman's Maus is a male example, and since the comic is autobiographical, was probably also a Real Life one. It's not played for comedy, however, and borderlines on downright emotional abuse.
- Alva Strauss Arnheim, the matriarch of Will Eisner`s The Name of the Game. She is the main reason her sons develop like they do, and she is ready to excuse any behaviour from her eldest son, as long as he keeps the family business up and going. Her attitude gets worse after the death of her husband.
- Eisner modeled this story on his wife`s family background. There is good evidence Alva has been a Real Life person.
- Ruth Cole from Black Panther. Christopher Priest designed her as an Expy of Aunt May from Spider-Man if May were a stereotypical Jewish mom.
- Mama Lipsky is already one in Kim Possible. But in Ronman the Barbarian, this trope comes full blast, in addition to being evil, due to Mama King wanting her son to marry Kimila to secure the throne.
- In Slipping Between Worlds, Fusilier Jonathan "Tailor" Cohen joined the British Army against his parents' wishes. Born in Wales, he has the right birth qualifications to be sent to a Welsh regiment, where he is accepted by Seven Platoon largely because of his skills with tape measure, needle and cotton. However, his distraught mother fires off a barrage of letters to the Colonel commanding, full of heartfelt questions such as ''Is he keeping well? Does the Army allow him a kosher diet? Is he allowed to respect the Sabbath? Please tell me he hasn't been drinking and smoking and getting involved with the sort of women who hang around Army barracks?" The Colonel passes the letters down the line to Cohen's platoon commander, Lieutenant Philip Holtack, who is curtly told "Deal with this, Philip".
- An OC in the same author's Discworld tales comes from a small country in the Circle Sea where the parent religion of Omnianism still tenaciously holds on. The Cenotians respect kosher law, have a religion hedged with taboos and commandments, know the secret of creating golems, and have an origin myth of being exiled from their homeland to the banks of a river in Babylon - then finding themselves in a different world entirely, led there by a relative of the Witch of Endor called Naomi Ogg. They believe their G-d got really annoyed and chose to ratchet up the exile factor in a big way. Student Assassin Rivka-ben-Divorah is a typical Cenotian who complains to her best friend about her overbearing and protective mother who appreciates she wants to get a steady job in a prestigious profession, but demands she marries a good Om-fearing Cenotian boy in a profession, and buckles down to giving her lots of grandchildren and keeping a kosher kitchen as soon as can be arranged. And promise me that however many people you inhume, you respect kashrut and attend Temple every Saturday!
Films — Animation
- Timon's Ma from The Lion King 1½.
- Mother Gothel from Tangled has an air of this trope to herself. However, the cut verse of "Mother Knows Best" is basically a tribute to Jewish mothers is fiction.
Go ahead, get trampled by a rhino!
Go ahead, get mugged and left for dead!
Me, I'm just your mother, what do I know?
I only bathed and changed and nursed you!
Go ahead and leave me. I deserve it.
Let me die alone here. Be my guest.
When it's too late you'll see, just wait.
Mooooooother knows best!
- Griselda from Strange Magic distinctly comes off like this with the stereotypical voice, the nagging, the attempts to get her son to get married and the passive-aggressive nature of her complaints.
Films — Live-Action
- Gender-inverted in Independence Day with David's father.
- Karen's mom in Goodfellas, right down to berating Henry for staying out too late. When they first meet, the first thing she says to Henry is "Karen tells me you're only half-Jewish." Henry is half-Italian, half-Irish, and was wearing a cross before Karen hurriedly made him cover it up so she wouldn't see it.
- The hero of The Hebrew Hammer has this.
- Seymour's mother from the original The Little Shop of Horrors. On top of the usual stereotypes, she's also an extreme hypochondriac, to the point where Seymour has been led to believe that all normal food is prepared by adding medicines to it.
- Although she doesn't have much screentime, the protagonist's mother in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (played by Shelley Winters) somehow manages to dominate the movie (and of course she manages to drive her son up the walls when she drops by)
- Woody Allen's mother in New York Stories, who disappears in a magician's disappearing act. Her disembodied head appears floating above New York City to drive her son mad.
- A Catholic version in Saturday Night Fever: Mrs. Manero is always criticizing and guilt-tripping Tony and dotes on her older son Frankie the Priest. She is absolutely crushed when she finds out Frankie is leaving the priesthood, and ends up disowning him for "disgracing the family."
- Aram's mother in The Rebound.
- In The Last Temptation of Christ, Mary (Jesus's mother) is portrayed this way. Word of God is it was a deliberate choice by director Martin Scorsese.
- In Monty Python's Life of Brian, the title character's mother guilt-trips him while he's on the cross: "Go ahead, be crucified. See if I care."
- In La Vérité si je mens, a comedy set in the French Sephardic Jewish community, a couple is in bed late at night when they hear the doorbell ring. "Who could show up at such an hour?" the husband asks. "Your mother?" the wife suggests. "No," the husband retorts, "my mother has her own set of keys!"
- Seymour's mother in The Cannonball Run, who despairs that her son is running around pretending to be "some goy movie star named Roger Moore".
- Gender switched in Private Benjamin with the titular character's parents. Her father in one scene does the guilt tripping and scolds her for "causing" her at the present composed and quiet Mother's nervous breakdown.
- It's never stated in The Fifth Element that Korben is Jewish, but his mother is a perfect fit for this trope. All throughout the film she guilt-trips him over the phone for never calling or visiting her. At one point she even berates the President of the Federation because she thinks he's just some schmuck who's helping her son avoid her.
- In The Prince of Tides, Tom jokes that Dr. Lowenstein is acting this way, and she confirms that she is a Jewish mother, and that she even brought sandwiches for her son. Downplayed in that she is not particularly overbearing, just protective, accommodating, and Jewish.
- Humoresque: Mama Kantor is a Jewish mother straight from central casting. When Leon is touring Europe to great acclaim, she is following along, showing his baby pictures to random strangers. She extols how handsome he is. When it's time for him to go to France to fight in World War I, she asks him to sit in her lap like when he was a child.
- There's an old joke about the first Jewish President of the United States. At his swearing-in ceremony, his mother leans over to the person next to her and says, "His brother's a doctor."
- What's the difference between a Jewish Mother and a rabid rottweiler? A rottweiler eventually lets go.
- There's another version of that joke, substituting the rottweiler with a Palestinian terrorist. The punchline is "you can negotiate with the latter".
- Some people have parodied this trope by telling jokes about gentile mothers, who are this trope but inverted:
Gentile: "Mom, unfortunately I can't come to your 60th birthday as I promised, because I have some very important business to do at that time."Mother: "Okay, I'm fine with that."
- A Jewish mother buys her son two neckties for his birthday, so the next time he goes to see her, he wears one of them. She opens the door and says, "What's the matter, you didn't like the other one?"
- The next time he sees her he wears the other one and she says, "What, the first one isn't good enough anymore?"
- A Jewish mother fiercely rebukes and berates her son for his inability to find a nice Jewish girl to settle down with and that he has been with a highly unsuitable series of Gentile women. She criticises their promiscuity, tendency to take too much strong drinks, swear, dress inappropriately and not be Jewish. Her son thinks about this and then informs her about his new girlfriend. His mother gets on the phone to her best friend. "Well, I hold some hope for this latest girlfriend of Nathan's. Apparently she's a Goldberg!" (beat) "But what sort of a first name is Whoopi, already?"
- A variant on this joke is that after being berated for a series of slutty, boozy, sleazy, girlfriends, and why can you not find a Jewish girl, the son brings home Amy Winehouse...
- Q: How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None. "That's all right, I'll just sit here in the dark..."
- A Jewish mother's dilemma: Finding out that her gay son's boyfriend is a doctor.
- On the flipside, a Christian mother is appalled to discover her Jewish friend has a gay son. "How can you possibly accept him?" Her friend responds, "What do you mean? They're both doctors, what's there to complain about?" An alternative punchline is: "Oh, so NOW you want me to complain?"
- Gene Simmons (né Chaim Witz) relates this one in his memoir Kiss and Make-Up: "What's the difference between a Jewish mother and an Italian mother? The Italian mother says, 'If you don't do what I tell you, I'll kill youse.' The Jewish mother says, 'If you don't do what I tell you, I'll kill myself.'"
- Q: What does a Jewish mother make for dinner?
- A Jewish son calls his mother:
Hey Mom, how're you doing?
I'm fine, dear.
Oh, sorry, wrong number.
- Q: What's the difference between a Jewish mother and a vulture?
A: A vulture waits until you're dead to eat your heart out.
- A Jewish woman turns 90, and her son, a young gay man, decides that now is the best time for him to come out to her, as he knows that she could be gone from his life at any minute and doesn't want her to die not knowing who her son really is. He comes over to her house for lunch one afternoon. After chatting for a few minutes, the young man takes a deep breath, looks his mother in the eye and say "Mom, I must confess, there's a reason I wanted to see you. I wanted to tell you that I'm homosexual." The mother looks understandably shocked. "You mean to tell me that you put your mouth on another man's private parts??" she asks, incredulously. "Ehhh, yes I do, mom," the man replies, clearly uncomfortable. The mother is flabbergasted. She replies, "And you won't even TRY my rugelach?!"
- A bunch of kids are playing in the courtyard. A window opens and the mother calls out to one of them:
- Abram, honey, time to go home!
- Am I cold, mom?
- No, honey, you're hungry!
- Harlan Ellison's "Mom" is about a Jewish Mother so overbearing that she comes back as a ghost after she dies just so she can continue nagging her son.
- How To Be A Jewish Mother by Dan Greenberg is the definitive text on the subject. One of the first things noted it is not necessary to be either Jewish or a mother to be a Jewish Mother.
- Constance Temple from the GONE series is a "non-observant Jew".
- Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth.
- Sophie Portnoy repeatedly nags young Alexander to finish everything on his plate, once even threatening him with a knife when he refuses to eat.
- During the controversy following Portnoy's publication, a journalist asked Roth's mother if she thought she was a "Jewish Mother". Her reply was "All mothers are Jewish Mothers." Jewish writer/humourist Howard Jacobson has observed that this is certainly true of all comedy mothers.
- The Destroyer: Chiun, Master of Sinanju, is male. And Korean. And the world's deadliest martial artist/professional assassin. And he's still a Jewish mother to poor, poor Remo...
- In one Destroyer fanfic, it's stated that when he's not on the job, Chiun spends his time in Florida retirement communities with the Jewish grandmothers.
- The actor who played him in the movie, Joel Grey, is Jewish.
- The short story "Pushing the Envelope" by Desmond Warzel begins and ends with arguments between the protagonist and his Jewish Mother.
- Waldo Butters in The Dresden Files has one and Bob, who is his temporary Companion Cube, imitates her. Complete with Yiddish accent. Harry finds this hilarious.
- Isaac Babel usually portraits Russian Jewish mothers (as well as any "mother figure", which includes aunts and grandmothers) as being kind, devoted, conservative and very fat.
- Mrs. Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory.
- Mrs. Helen Seinfeld and Mrs. Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld. Especially Estelle. One wonders if she's trying to make up for the fact that her husband is not Jewish.
- Kramer starts acting like one when tasked to cook all the food for Jewish Singles Night.
Kramer: [to Jerry] Eat! Eat! You're nothing but skin and bones!
- Kramer starts acting like one when tasked to cook all the food for Jewish Singles Night.
- Used in an episode of Frasier involving Frasier's new Jewish girlfriend and her mother. The mother is so involved in her daughter's life that arguments on the subject have apparently become routine. When one such fight breaks out and Frasier asks if he should leave the room, the mother casually answers, "Sit, we're nearly finished."
- The Nanny:
- Fran Fine's mother Sylvia is one of the best examples in a modern sitcom. She is very Jewish, has a need to control her daughter and push her into marriage (any man will do at this point) and is keen on using guilt-tripping to get Fran to do what she wants.
- Sylvia's mother Yetta acts like a typical doting Jewish Grandmother to Fran and the Sheffield children and occasionally like a snarky Jewish Mother to Sylvia.
- Despite how Fran complains about how overbearing her mother is, she can some times show similar traits herself when it comes to the Sheffield children. It is difficult for her to let Grace go on a play date by herself for the first time, and she also tries to use guilt-trip on Maggie on occasions.
- In some ways, Grace's mother from Will & Grace is like this - Grace remembers being told "...the classic Dr Seuss story; One Fish, Two Fish, Goy Fish, Jew Fish" by her mother.
- Cuddy's mother in House. Made all the more annoying by the fact that she's a convert.
- In British sitcom So Haunt Me a Gentile family moves into a house haunted by its previous owner Yetta Feldman (Miriam Karlin), who treats a Christian exorcism with scorn ("Gevalt, have you got the wrong sort of ghost!") and then becomes Jewish Mother from beyond the grave to the entire family.
- In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "The End", Larry has a Near-Death Experience, and he meets his dead mother in Heaven... who berates him.
- British broadcasting company Channel 4 briefly ran a reality show/contest in mid-2011 called The Jewish Mother of the Year. And in Episode Two, where they have to act as matchmakers to unhitched Jewish girls...oy vey and gevalt, my life already.
- Ida Morgenstern on Rhoda.
- Marie Barone, in Everybody Loves Raymond, is a Jewish Mother in everything but religion and ethnicity (she's Italian-American. Connoisseurs say Catholic mothers of Latin or Irish extraction are their spiritual sisters, though). She counts, as ELR is co-written by Philip Rosenthal, whose Jewish Mother helped inspire the character.
- Call the Midwife: The Patient of the Week in Series 3, Episode 4 is Jewish, and lives with her mother. On account of what seems to be a combination of Ménière's Disease and PTSD (the family rode out the Holocaust by living in a cellar), the mother gets physically ill if she attempts to leave her flat. When, in response to Dr Turner's news that her condition can be treated, her daughter and son-in-law announce a plan to move them all to Golders Green, she gets a bit passive-aggressive (understandably, since it's a big shock). However, once her granddaughter is born, she drums up the courage to leave the house...to nag her daughter about the inadequacy of the baby's clothing.
- Subverted in Arrow: Felicity might actually have a better relationship with her mother if her mother fit the stereotype, instead of being flighty and kind of ditzy.
- In The Goldbergs, the Goldberg family of Philadelphia are Ambiguously Jewish - the name fits, the younger son fits the stereotype of being nerdy and bad at sports, the daughter has a sense of spoilt entitlement, but matters of religion are not really hinted at.note But mother Beverley Goldberg is a terrifying Mama Bear who fits the Jewish Mother persona to a tee. In fact she takes it Up to Eleven.
- In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca's mother is the epitome of the Jewish Mother — her very first scene in person (not over the phone) has her singing the song "Where's the Bathroom?":
Don't interrupt me, you're always with the talking,
I just got off a plane, give me a moment to catch my breath
It's the least you can do since you lived inside me for nine months
And you still have told me
Where the hell your stupid bathroom is!
- Has come up a few times on Whose Line Is It Anyway? as a suggestion; Greg Proops plays an especially good one.
- Many interpretations of Demeter turn her into this. Perhaps most notably in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
You could've married the god of doctors or the god of lawyers, but noooo. You had to eat the pomegranate.
- And in George O'Connor's Olympians. Part of why Kore comes to like the underworld is she gets to make independent choices, and Hades really listens to her and likes her ideas. She actually lies about eating the pomegranate seeds to get her 6 months of the year with him.
- in the Bible, the book of Judges (4:1-31) tells the story of Deborah, who leads the men of Israel to victory over the foe, berating and shaming them into picking up weapons and fighting. She explicitly says of herself after the victory: "Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose as a mother in Israel". Never get between a Jewish mother and her children!
- Momma is almost entirely this trope.
- Sabra Klein's mother in PreTeena is proud, protective and smothering to her Adorkable daughter. It is hinted that Sabra's multiple allergies and food-phobias are down to over-protective parents. Mrs Klein also dissaproves of her daughter's nickname "Stick", even though everyone calls her this.
- Ida Bogen in I Can Get It For You Wholesale is very maternal and Jewish and particularly proud of her cooking (one of her songs is titled "Eat A Little Something"), though she can hardly be called manipulative when compared to her son Harry, a superlative Manipulative Bastard.
- Mark Cohen's mom from RENT.
- Claire's mother (not the eponymous mother) in My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
- Albert Peterson's dithering mother in Bye Bye Birdie is often portrayed this way, even though we're never given any reason to believe that the Peterson family is Jewish.
- Golde from Fiddler on the Roof.
- Aase, mother of Peer Gynt. Constantly dissatisfied with her son, and for good reason, and complaining that he didn`t marry the wealthy girl who actually wanted him. Subverted because she is a Norwegian christian, not a jew, but her attitude fits the trope.
- Arnold's mother Mrs. Beckoff in Torch Song Trilogy (a role written for Estelle Getty), is a sympathetic version. Still annoying, and can't understand the gay thing, but she means well underneath.
- Harley's mother in Boy Meets Boy. She doesn't show up much, but she notably nagged Harley about his boyfriend Mik for a pretty long time, trying to get him to date her friend's son (who was a doctor) instead.
- Elizabeth's mother in Better Days constantly voices her disapproval of Fisk and tries to hook Elizabeth up with nerdy Jewish boys.
- Abe's mother in Alien Loves Predator. Fulfills the whole range of Jewish Mother stereotypes, despite being a Xenomorph Queen...
- In But I'm a Cat Person: Sparrow's mother (even as an ethnically Jewish pagan), and her mother before her.
"And when is that lesbian separatist coven of yours going to give me some grandchildren, hmmm?"
- Marco's mother in Marcoand Marty. An entire strip is devoted to her complaining about her son's ex boyfriend, and she visits him at college with blintzes and brisket because he "sounded thin" on the phone.
- In A Very Potter Musical, Molly Weasley is implied to be this trope.
- In The Onion's news videos, one ticker item read, "Jewish Scientists Discover New Way to Disappoint Parents".
- In the Nostalgia Critic review of Man of Steel, the Critic likens Clark's father to this. This is followed by a skit where a Jewish mother starts rambling on the phone about her amazing son Clark is - to a 911 operator.
911-Operator: Never pick up a phone again.Jewish Mother: Why does everyone keep telling me that?!
- A Steam Train Let's Play of Civilization V features Danny (and Egoraptor) doing Brooklyn-accented Jewish Mother impressions in response to the decision to build Notre Dame in Tokyo. Hilarity Ensues.
Danny: Y'know, Martin from across the street already built Stonehenge, and he did it in Canada!Ego Raptor: They don't even have things in Canada!Danny: It's just a buncha wood and deeuhs!
- Sheila Broflovski, Kyle's mom, from South Park. She's started wars over being protective of her son. Well, a war, with Canada in the movie, albeit one that inadvertently led to the Apocalypse. Good thing the Reset Button managed to get pressed...
- Marilyn Berman, Harold's mother on Hey Arnold!.
- From The Simpsons: "A grizzly bear stands 7 feet tall, weighs like a Mazda Miata, and can tear through a tree like a Jewish mother through self-esteem."
- In Futurama, Dr. Zoidberg's aunt first criticizes him for wanting to become a comedian instead of a doctor, then for giving up his dream of becoming a comedian to go to medical school.
- Snot's mom in American Dad! appears to be this in her appearance in "Moon Over Isla Island", but when Steve and Snot actually talk about her in other episodes it's reveiled that she's actually an alcoholic slut who steals money from her son.
- A minor character on Drawn Together once described her mother as an "incredibly Jewish woman." Definitely Informed Judaism, since it's the one and only time in the episode the character brings up her (alleged) Jewishness.
- The Real Ghostbusters: Although initially established as being descended from a line of Christian Jews, when Egon's mother is eventually introduced, she's revealed as being one of these, to the extent where she'll mother the entire team including the secretary, Janine. Of course, Janine is used to it, given that her mother is one as well.
- Averted with Didi Pickles on Rugrats, but Didi's mother Minka fits the Jewish Grandmother mold.
- Gandhi has stereotypically Jewish parents in Clone High. His mother even threatens to hang herself when he tells her that he wants to become a trucker, going as far as to use "the good noose."