A brief history of the Jewish mother.

Snapshots of life at home.
June 13 2007 6:43 AM

Never Mind, I'll Just Sit Here in the Dark

A brief history of the Jewish mother.

Click here to launch a slide show.

You might think that the Jewish mother we know and love and mock—self-sacrificing, neuroses-inducing, soup-peddling—either sprang whole from the head of Philip Roth or from the Bible. But neither is the case. She's the 20th-century creation of a few anthropologists and a legion of comedians. And while some of her features are all too constant, she is continually being touched up (which she no doubt appreciates).

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The Jewish mother's greatest act of sacrifice, perhaps, is to be the gift that keeps on giving: first to generations of male writers like Roth, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen, and then to female ones like Wendy Wasserstein and Sarah Silverman. Click here for a slideshow based on You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother, a new book by historian Joyce Antler.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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