Do not be misled by the title. Marjorie Ingall’s latest book is surely about Jewish mothers, and surely about parenting empathetic and independent children, but above all it is a funny and inspiring book about how the choices that adults make affect the way that the children we care for interact in the world. The best way to sum it up – “the kids are watching; be a mensch”.
While investigating the development of the image of the popular Jewish mother and the historical underpinnings for why Jewish mothers may have stressed certain lessons in raising their children, Ingall reaches far beyond the “mommy wars” with humor and tact. She delves into Jewish tradition to explore the basic values that we want to model for the next generation. While nominally addressed to parents of young and school-age children, Ingall’s message may be equally applicable to any inter-generational relationships. Grandparents, teachers, caregivers, neighbors, aunts and uncles, even older siblings and cousins could be inspired by Ingall’s words. Because the hardest work may be in figuring out what we want children to see, how to find the vocabulary to communicate our values, and determining the actions that will model them.
Ingall effectively draws on her own Jewish identity, Jewish historical and literary sources, and religious texts to contextualize her story. The included Yiddish glossary may be especially helpful to a wider reading audience, and the “Further Reading” list is a thoughtful and valuable addition. Mamaleh Knows Best is a wonderful introduction to the conversation – direction to more information, whether on the religious, historical, or psychological bases of Ingall’s writing, will likely be welcomed by readers who are touched by this book.
Read Mamaleh Knows Best. Read it with an open mind and open heart. Read it with a partner, with older children, with other family members and friends. Read it thoughtfully and be inspired.