Word of the Day |

Ima Polaniya: Want Chicken Soup With That Guilt Trip?

In Israel, the stereotypical Jewish mother who's constantly complaining you don't come by enough is called a Polish mother.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

You know the stereotype of the Jewish mother: smothering her children with guilt-wrapped love as she forces them to eat more of her chicken soup with kneidlach, because she slaved over a hot stove, not that she’s complaining, and you know, it wouldn’t kill you to come visit more often. And what’s vegetarian-schmegetarian got to do with chicken soup, anyway?

In Israel, though, where about three-quarters of the population is Jewish, “Jewish mother” as a literal description applies to the vast majority of mothers in the country. And so we have to get a bit more specific to cue the Yiddish intonation and Ashkenazi background that many see as implicit in the countless Jewish mother jokes (Q: How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb? A: Don’t bother, I’ll just sit in the dark, I don’t want to be a nuisance to anybody). So who is that Jewish mother sitting in the dark? In Hebrew, she is an ima Polaniya, literally meaning a Polish mother.

But while the stereotype of the Polish Jewish mother is based on actual Polish Jewish mothers, you don’t actually have to be Polish to be an ima Polaniya.

As the world shrinks, being Polish has come to have a new cachet. The Hebrew website imapolaniya.com is actually a guide for how Israelis can become European citizens because of their Polish heritage. And, of course, it also provides some Polish mother jokes. I’ll leave you with this one: “Why does a Polish mother watch a blue movie all the way through? Because she hopes that at the end they’ll get married.”

To contact Shoshana Kordova with column suggestions or other word-related comments, email her at shoshanakordova@gmail.com. For previous Word of the Day columns, go to: www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day.

Want some chicken soup with that guilt trip?Credit: Dreamstime

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