(JTA) — England’s senior Reform movement rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, has led the movement in supporting refugees, fighting anti-Semitism, working for LGBT rights and making the progressive case for Israel.
Now Janner-Klausner, who has led Reform Judaism since 2012, is leaving that post. She will step down on Oct. 1, the movement announced.
Reform Chair Geoffrey Marx said she “has made Britain better.”
Janner-Klausner will begin working on a doctorate in digital theology at Durham University at the start of the coming academic year, according to a statement posted on Reform Judaism’s website.
She said her research “will be looking at the experience of Jewish young adults who are involved in online communities and seeing how this impacts on their perception and participation in our in-person community activities. I am also going to be training leaders in resilience, especially in times of crisis.”
The statement said “Reform Judaism will now take a period of time to review and consult before announcing its intentions.”
A record number of nurses and midwives are employed in the NHS, as the Nursing and Midwifery’s Council reports its largest ever annual increase of registered nursing and midwifery professionals.
Around 18,370 more nurses, midwives and nursing associates are now on the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s permanent register to work in the UK compared to a year ago, bringing the total number to 716,607 by 31 March 2020. The number of people trained in the UK leaving the register has also fallen to a five-year low.
The number of nursing and midwifery applicants to English universities has also risen for the second year running as the Government works towards delivering 50,000 more nurses by the end of Parliament.
The latest UCAS stats show that applicant numbers for nursing and midwifery courses are up 16% year-on-year, reaching 47,320 by the end of June.
This is the second year in a row that applicant numbers have risen. In 2019 there was a 6.4% increase in people accepted onto nursing and midwifery courses in England compared to 2018.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
I’m delighted to see record numbers of nurses and midwives now working in our NHS as we work towards delivering 50,000 more nurses in this parliament.
As we continue our battle with this deadly disease, our world leading healthcare system has never been more important. We will continue to give it the support it needs today, as well as protecting it for generations to come.
Nurses have saved countless lives during the pandemic, and the NHS simply couldn’t function without them.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
This pandemic demonstrated just how talented and valued our brilliant nurses and midwives are, and it is fantastic to see an explosion of applications for nursing and midwifery courses.
As well as a hugely rewarding career in one of the world’s best healthcare systems, degree students will benefit from at least £5,000 a year from the Government in free additional support during their studies.
With over 12,000 more fully qualified nurses working in our NHS compared to last year, we are well on our way to delivering 50,000 more by the end of this Parliament.
The number of new applicants between January and June was 68% higher than the same period last year (11,360 in 2020, compared to 6,750 in 2019).
Nearly two thirds of nursing and midwifery applicants living in England are mature students aged 21 or over, a 24% increase on last year.
New applicants or those without an offer can still seek a place at university via the clearing process which runs from the 6th July to 20th October.
Student nurses and midwives starting courses from September will benefit from new guaranteed, additional support of at least £5,000 a year to help with their living costs, which they won’t have to pay back.
nternational popstar and arguably one of the most famous faces on the planet, Harry Styles, is about to give you the best night’s sleep of your life.
The ex-One Direction heartthrob who holds a cool 28.7 million followers on Instagram has announced his latest collaboration with an unlikely partner, the sleep app, Calm.
During lockdown Harry swapped singing and dressing like your nan (if you’ve seen the memes, you’ll know) for narrating a 30-minute sleep story titled Dream with Me. We’re pretty sure a legion of fans have already dreamt about bedding Harry, but this news makes it more of a reality than they ever thought possible.
Fantasies aside, Harry has always been a champion of speaking out about mental health, publicly opening up about his personal experience seeking therapy and the impact it’s had on his wellbeing.
The partnership with the app isn’t his first foray into the digital sphere, the singer invested in Calm’s Series A back in June 2018 and the brand has gone on to become the number one app for mental fitness, designed to help you manage stress, sleep better and generally live a happier, healthier life.
Calm are well aware of the power of Harry and have been teasing the launch since Sunday with tweets that show watermelon emojis – a reference to Harry’s recent hit song, Watermelon Sugar, with the cryptic words, “This Wednesday.”
Dream With Me will, we’re sure, lull fans and the some 16million suffering insomniacs here in the UK into a gentle slumber with Harry’s dreamy Redditch tones. The northern boy will join the seriously A-list line-up of other Calm contributors, that include everyone from LeBron James to Laura Dern, Matthew McConaughey to Kelly Rowland, Lucy Liu and more.
September means one thing to anyone with children: back to school and all the shopping and planning that requires. And while uniform and school shoes are fairly straight forward, the question of backpacks is a much wider one. So we’ve scoured the high street to find the best school bags, whatever your need or budget:
The colourful school bag
Got a child who knows what they want? Pink? Green? Gold? Silver? Shiny? Sparkly? Hype have got you covered! A dazzling array of designs, there’s literally no limit to the choices your child can have. From Mint Holographic to Blue Acid Denim and Gold Glitter, these roomy backpacks have become a popular, yet, thanks to the multitude of different styles, individual choice for style-savvy kids up and down the country. From £24.99.
The anti-theft backpack
If public transport travel is part of your child’s school commute, having a secure backpack will be high on your list of priorities. The Bobby Compact backpack is a literal Fort Knox – there’s no external zippers and has thick, cut proof material. Kids might be more enamoured by its sleek design and integrated USB port which you can connect to an internal power bank, so when their phone or tablet runs low, they can attach it to their bag for some more charge and carry on undisturbed. It’s fully waterproof, ergonomically designed, and comes in different colourways and full of hidden pockets too. From £74.99.
The bag for little adventurers
Wipe-clean is the only way to go when your little darlings are mini adventurers and this Mini Joules Backpack is spot on. With plenty of room for lunch boxes and school supplies, the padded arms mean it won’t cut into your child so they can run around till their heart’s content. The cute design should please them too. From £26.95.
The one for sporty types
Sporty students will appreciate the multitude of pockets of the Under Armour Storm Contendor Backpack. The tough, abrasion-resistant bottom panel won’t fall foul to being dumped on a football pitch while the water-repellent front pockets are designed to keep valuables safe. Perhaps one of the best features though is the adjustable, padded, HeatGear shoulder straps, just the thing for post-cross-country. From £65.
The stylish rucksack
Older students will love the minimalism of style of this Fiorelli Zip Top Backpack, which puts a cooler spin on the traditional rucksack shape. It’s stylish as well as practical, as it opens fully (so easy to reach for those pens) but includes a small zipped pocket for valuables plus a slip slot for tablets. From £69.
The best bag for growing backs
A lot of students opt to lug all their books around at all times for fear of forgetting the one important item but that means a lot of weight on young, developing shoulders and for some this is a real concern. The YUUschool backpack takes weight distribution to new levels: vertical compartmentalisation of pockets keeps weight higher up and closer to the spine. S-shaped padded straps are sewn close together to centralise the weight to the body. Deep pockets and security straps avoid weight falling to the middle of the bag causing pain and pressure. From £39.99.
The one for the glitterati
You can’t beat a bag to put a smile on their faces and this cheap and cheerful number from Paperchase is just the ticket for those grey, autumnal days. The rainbow design carries through to the zip too, and with a large compartment and smaller one at the front, it’s an ideal choice for those that travel light. From £35.
Who Was Hugh Hefner?
Born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, Hugh Hefner transformed the adult entertainment industry with his groundbreaking publication Playboy. From the first issue featuring Marilyn Monroe in December 1953, Playboy expanded into a multimillion-dollar enterprise mirroring the often controversial sensibilities of its founder. By the 1970s, Hefner set himself up at the Playboy Mansion West in California, remaining editor-in-chief of the magazine he founded. In more recent years he starred in the reality TV series The Girls Next Door.
Background and Early Life
Hugh Marston Hefner, born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, was the eldest of two sons born to Grace and Glenn Hefner, who were strict Methodists. Hefner went to Sayre Elementary School and then to Steinmetz High School, where, reportedly, his IQ was 152 though his academic performance was generally modest. While in high school, Hefner became president of the student council and founded a school newspaper—an early sign of his journalistic talents. He also created a comic book entitled School Daze, in which the generally reticent youngster was able to be at the center of his own imagined universe.
Hefner served two years in the U.S. Army as a noncombatant toward the end of World War II, and was discharged in 1946. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute for a summer before enrolling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in psychology. Hefner earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949, the same year he married his first wife, Mildred Williams. He later did a semester of graduate school work in the area of sociology, focusing on the sex research institute established by Alfred Kinsey.
By the early 1950s, Hefner had landed a copy-writing job at the Chicago office of Esquire magazine, which featured literary works by such writers as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as illustrations from pinup artists like George Petty and Alberto Vargas. Hefner opted not to remain with the publication, which moved to New York, when he was denied a $5 raise.
Out on his own, Hefner was determined to start his own publication. He raised $8,000 from 45 investors—including $2,000 from his mother and brother Keith combined—to launch Playboy magazine. Hefner had planned to title the magazine “Stag Party” but was forced to change the name to avoid a trademark infringement with the existing Stag magazine. A colleague suggested the name “Playboy,” after a defunct automobile company. Hefner liked the name, as he thought it reflected high living and sophistication.
Hefner produced the first edition of Playboy out of his South Side home. It hit newsstands in December 1953, but did not carry a date because Hefner was unsure as to whether or not a second issue would be produced. To help ensure its success, Hefner had purchased a color photograph of actress Marilyn Monroe in the nude—which had been taken some years earlier—and placed it in the centerfold of the magazine. The first issue quickly sold more than 50,000 copies, and became an instant sensation.
America in the 1950s was attempting to distance itself from nearly 30 years of war and economic depression. For many, the magazine proved to be a welcome antidote to the sexual repression of the era. For those who initially dismissed the magazine as a pornographic publication, Playboy soon broadened its circulation with thoughtful articles and an urbane presentation.
Developing a Voice
The Playboy logo, depicting the stylized profile of a rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie, appeared in the second issue and remained the trademark icon of the brand. Hefner chose the rabbit for its “humorous sexual connotation” and because the image was “frisky and playful”—an image he fostered in the magazine’s articles and cartoons. Hefner wanted to distinguish his magazine from most other men’s periodicals, which catered to outdoorsmen and showcased he-man fiction. Hefner decided his magazine would instead cater to the cosmopolitan, intellectual male and feature more overt sexual imagery.
In a series of 25 editorial installments presented during the 1960s, Hefner promoted what became known as the “Playboy Philosophy.” An evolving manifesto on politics and governance, the philosophy espoused Hefner’s fundamental beliefs about free enterprise and the nature of man and woman, calling for what he viewed as reasoned discourse on the truths of human sexuality. However, Hefner never lost sight of the fact that it was pictures of nude women which ultimately sold the magazine.
Work on the publication consumed much of Hefner’s life and marriage. By the late ’50s, Playboy‘s circulation had surpassed that of rival magazine Esquire, with sales reaching a million copies a month. But personal issues loomed. Hefner and his first wife divorced in 1959 after having had two children, Christie and David. As a single man, Hefner had many girlfriends and became known for his romantic, unpretentious presence. Yet he also earned a reputation for being controlling and trying to enforce double standards.
The Golden Age
In the 1960s, Hugh Hefner became the persona of Playboy: the urbane sophisticate in the silk smoking jacket with pipe in hand. He adopted a wide range of pursuits and socialized with the famous and wealthy, always in the company of young, beautiful women. As the magazine’s increased success came to the attention of the mainstream public, Hefner was happy to portray himself as the charismatic icon and spokesperson for the sexual revolution of the ’60s.
This was also Playboy‘s golden age as ever-increasing circulation allowed Hefner to build a vast enterprise of “private key” clubs that, among other traits, were racially inclusive in a time where segregation was still legally enforced. (A documentary on Hefner that focused on his civil rights activism later received a NAACP Image Award nod.) Hostesses, known as Playboy Bunnies for their scanty outfits made up of rabbit ears and puffy tails, staffed these high-end establishments. The Bunnies often did quite well financially via tips and were directed to keep a certain professional distance from ordinary patrons. The women also had strict conditions placed on them in regards to appearance, including size.
Over the years, Hefner’s Playboy Enterprises also built hotel resorts, started modeling agencies and operated a number of media endeavors. Hefner hosted two short-run television series, Playboy’s Penthouse (1959–60), which featured the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Tony Bennett, and Playboy After Dark (1969–70), with guests like Milton Berle and James Brown. Both programs were weekly talk shows set in a bachelor pad full of Playboy Playmates, who chatted with Hefner and his special guests about various subjects.
The publication itself began to garner a reputation for serious journalism, as author Alex Haley launched the “Playboy Interview” in 1962 with jazz great Miles Davis. But Hefner’s success didn’t come without controversy. In 1963, he was arrested and stood trial for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featured nude photos of Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict, and the charge was eventually dropped. The publicity didn’t affect the reputation of Hefner or Playboy Enterprises. In 1964, Hefner founded the Playboy Foundation to support endeavors related to fighting censorship and researching human sexuality.
Challenges and Downsizing
By 1971, Hefner had built Playboy Enterprises into a major corporation. The company went public, and the magazine’s circulation hit 7 million copies a month, earning a $12 million profit in 1972. Hefner also began dividing his time between two large mansions, one in Chicago and the other in the Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles. When he wasn’t home, he was globetrotting in the Big Bunny, a converted black DC-30 jet complete with a living room, a disco, movie and video equipment, a wet bar and sleeping quarters. The jet also featured a circular bed for Hefner himself.
In the mid-1970s, however, Playboy Enterprises fell on hard times. The United States hit a recession, and Playboy faced increasing competition from more explicit men’s magazines such as Penthouse, helmed by rival Bob Guccione. At first, Hefner responded by presenting more revealing photos of women in less wholesome poses and circumstances. Some advertisers rebelled, and circulation fell even further. From then on, Hefner concentrated the company’s operations on magazine publishing. Playboy Enterprises eventually divested itself from its unprofitable clubs and hotels and downsized its ancillary media endeavors. The magazine kept its new photography standards and began presenting features like “Girls of the Big Ten.”
Over the years a range of female celebrities have appeared in Playboy, including Madonna, Kate Moss, Jenny McCarthy, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Sinatra and, appearing on the most covers, Pamela Anderson. However, the magazine has also been targeted by critics who take issue with its objectification of women and barely veiled emphasis on commercialism. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem famously went undercover as a bunny waitress in 1963 to showcase what female workers endured for a two-part Show magazine article. (Steinem’s exposé was later made into a 1985 TV movie starring Kirstie Alley.)
In 1975, Hefner decided to make Los Angeles his permanent home so he could more closely supervise his interests in television and film production. He became involved in the restoration of the famed Hollywood sign and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And in 1978 he started the Playboy Jazz Festival, an annual event featuring some of the best jazz musicians in the world.
Transitions and Other Projects
In 1985, Hefner suffered a minor stroke, with the entrepreneur blaming it on stress from director Peter Bogdanovich’s book The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which profiled the life and murder of a former Playmate. The stroke served as a wake-up call for Hefner. He stopped smoking, began to work out and adopted a slower pace in his pleasurable pursuits. He married his longtime girlfriend, Kimberly Conrad, in 1989, and for a time, the Playboy Mansion reflected an atmosphere of family life. The marriage produced two sons, Marston and Cooper. The Hefners separated in 1998 and officially divorced in 2009. After the separation, Kimberly and the two boys lived on an estate next door to the Playboy Mansion.
In 1988, Hefner turned over control of Playboy Enterprises to his daughter Christie, naming her chair and chief executive officer. She played a key role in directing Playboy’s ventures in cable television, video production and online programming, with Hugh continuing to serve as the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Christie Hefner stepped down from her position in January 2009.
While the magazine saw more modest sales in a changing publishing landscape, the Playboy brand remained a formidable entity in terms of global licensing opportunities. The famed logo also made inroads into various avenues of pop culture, as seen with its display on a chain regularly worn by fashionista Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City.
In his later years, Hugh Hefner devoted much of his time to philanthropy and civic projects. He directed his foundation in 1993 to launch the annual Freedom of Expression Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Hefner also gave the University of Southern California $100,000 for its “Censorship in the Cinema” course, and went on to donate $2 million to its film school in 2007. Additionally, he made major contributions to the restoration of classic films, one of his great passions.
‘The Girls Next Door’
Hefner received numerous awards for his contributions to society and the publishing industry. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors in 1998, which, ironically, was the same year Steinem earned induction. In the new millennium, he received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award and became an honorary member of TheHarvard Lampoon.
2005 saw the premiere of The Girls Next Door, a reality series focusing on the lives of Hefner and his girlfriends at the Playboy Mansion, on the E! cable television network. The show’s earlier seasons featured Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, with later seasons featuring twins Kristina and Karissa Shannon and Crystal Harris, who would later become engaged to Hefner. True to form, the series served as a promotional vehicle for many of Hefner’s projects.
The 2009 season finale of Girls Next Door chronicled more changes in Hefner’s life, as Marquardt left the mansion and began her own TV series. Wilkinson left soon after, pursuing a relationship with NFL player Hank Baskett. Madison also vacated the mansion. She later penned the 2015 memoir Down the Rabbit Hole, detailing Hefner’s off-camera machinations and the severe unhappiness she experienced living at the mansion.
Third Marriage and Rebranding
Hefner reportedly was in discussions with Hollywood studio executives for many years to create a biopic about his life. Director Brett Ratner was linked to the film at one point, with several major stars named as prospects for the lead role, including Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr.
Hefner and Harris became engaged in December 2010. Not long after, in June 2011, the couple made headlines when Harris called off the engagement. Hefner and Harris were then back in the public eye in 2012, after announcing their re-engagement. The couple tied the knot at a Playboy Mansion ceremony on New Year’s Eve in 2012. After the ceremony, 86-year-old Hefner tweeted: “Happy New Year from Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Hefner,” with a photo of himself and his 26-year-old bride.
Meanwhile, Playboy was set to undergo a transformation: In October 2015, chief content officer Cory Jones revealed to the New York Times that he and Hefner had agreed to stop using photos of fully unclothed women. The change was part of a strategic decision to secure more advertisers and better placement on newsstands, as well as a response to the proliferation of internet pornography that had made the magazine’s spreads seem old-fashioned. The March 2016 issue featured bikini-clad model Sarah McDaniel on the cover, the first time Playboy presented itself as a non-nude magazine.
However, the change was short lived. Not long after Hefner’s son Cooper took over as chief creative officer in 2016, it was announced that Playboy would again feature unclothed models. “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem,” the creative chief tweeted in February 2017. “Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are.”
Cooper Hefner had also voiced his displeasure with the Playboy Mansion going up for sale, though he was unable to have his way on that issue. In the summer of 2016, it was announced that the mansion had been sold for $100 million to a neighbor, under the agreement that Hefner and his wife would continue living there until his death.
Hefner died on September 27, 2017, at his home, the Playboy Mansion, in Holmby Hills, California. He was 91. “Hugh M. Hefner, the American icon who in 1953 introduced the world to Playboy magazine and built the company into one of the most recognizable American global brands in history, peacefully passed away today from natural causes at his home, The Playboy Mansion, surrounded by loved ones,” Playboy Enterprises confirmed in a statement. “He was 91 years old.”
Hefner bought the mausoleum drawer next to Marilyn Monroe in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, where he will be buried.
The Jewish Mother. A stereotype so familiar that the words conjure up a universal caricature: a middle-aged woman with a nasal New York accent and ample bosom, who either sweats over a steaming pot of matzah balls while screaming at her kids from across the house. Or, in an updated version, she sits poolside in Florida, jangling her diamonds and guilt-tripping her grown children into calling her more often. The Jewish mother wants her daughter to marry a Jewish doctor and her son to love her best of all. She is sacrificing yet demanding, manipulative and tyrannical, devoted and ever-present. She loves her children fiercely, but man, does she nag.
Where did this Jewish mother come from, and how did she become such a cultural fixture, shorthand for all that is excessive and smothering in familial love? Her predecessor, the Yiddishe Mama, carried little of the negative cultural weight of the Jewish mother and was celebrated in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the American immigrant neighborhoods at the turn of the 20th century. The Yiddishe Mama was a balabusta, a sentimentalized figure, a good mother and homemaker, known for her strength and creativity, entrepreneurialism and hard work, domestic miracles and moral force. If the Yiddishe Mama was anxious, this was to be expected—after all, who could blame her? Centuries of anti-Semitism plus the challenges of immigrant life justified her intense mothering style and lionized her willful ways. The Yiddishe Mama reminded Jews of the Old World and was synonymous with nostalgia and longing.
But while the Yiddishe Mama and her selfless child-rearing contributed to the success and upward mobility of the American Jewish family, the Jewish mother stereotype didn’t fare so well in this cultural shift. As she rose into the middle class, the Jewish mother’s anxiety level seemed excessive and out of sync with the new suburban reality. Adopting middle class domestic norms, she gave up her own work outside of the home and increasingly, even desperately, sought status and fulfillment through her children. With some modicum of newfound wealth, she was now represented as entitled and overbearing, showy and loud. She became the scapegoat for Jewish ambivalence and anxiety about assimilation, simultaneously representing those Jewish traits that seemed to resist acculturation and held responsible for the materialism that came with success. By mid-century, the Jewish mother was primarily identified by negative characteristics, tinged with Jewish self-hatred and misogyny.
Though it’s been generations since she first appeared on the scene, the Jewish mother stereotype still finds its way into popular culture year after year, ranging from the viral YouTube series, “Sh*t Jewish Mothers Say,” to Caren Chesler’s June 2013 New York Times column about Jewish motherhood via IVF. And there’s more. Barbra Streisand played the intrusive, nagging New Jersey Jewish mother character Joyce Brewster in the 2012 Seth Rogen comedy Guilt Trip, and we all suffered while watching the coiffed and coutured real-life Jewish moms on Bravo’s reality program, The Princesses of Long Island. And let’s not forget Mrs. Wolowitz, Howard’s Jewish mother on the hit CBS show The Big Bang Theory. Though she never appears on screen, her obnoxious and demanding voice makes her presence clear. Literature, film, television, comedy—the Jewish Mother is there. She even has her own Wikipedia entry.
Although the details may differ, the stereotype, in all of its various fashions, is not pretty. What’s clearest about the Jewish mother is that she’s way over-determined and not someone most of us set out to emulate. And yet… there she is, whether we like it or not. Like Woody Allen’s hovering Jewish mother in the sky in the short film Oedipus Wrecks, the stereotype is annoyingly ubiquitous, elbowing her way into conversation—or our own psyches—just when we least expect it.
Maybe that’s because every mother, Jewish or not, can relate to aspects of that mother. We’ve all loved our children to the point of smothering them, been overly anxious, and wrapped ourselves in the mantle of martyrdom from time to time. And so it follows that over the course of the 20th century, the Jewish mother has come to stand in for all mothers, combining the worst of both Jews and women into a toxic mix. Today, “we are all Jewish mothers,” as Joyce Antler put it in You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother—which means we are all guilty of the kind of over-involvement and hysteria once attributed to Jewish mothers in particular.
The latest headlines, sound bites, and cultural trends seem to suggest that motherhood is in a state of crisis. We’re either “leaning in” and abandoning our kids to nannies, or we’re “opting out” to stay at home and steam sweet potatoes. We’re obsessing over whether we can have it all (we can’t), whether breast is best (depends), and whether dads matter (they do). We’re “Helicopter Moms,” “Tiger Moms,” “Attachment Moms,” and “Lazy Moms.” We have inspected, dissected, discussed, and critiqued these various forms of mothering. And yet, the stereotype of the “Jewish Mother” sits, untouched, unexamined, unquestioned. To date, no one has turned their critical focus to the enduring caricature and how its lingering presence impacts actual Jewish mothers today.
This oversight means that scores of Jewish mothers find themselves with no recognizable public role model, no realistic figure with whom to identify. The borscht belt Bubbe who appears on TV may be familiar, but she doesn’t describe or speak to our modern realities. The distance between that character and our own lives is vast—and our impulse may be to emphasize that distance, rather than try to bridge it.
And yet, there is a need to identify, to honor that which we love, to feel pride in our heritage, and to be articulate about its strengths. So what’s a modern Jewish mother to do? How can we define ourselves in a way that is authentic, empowering, and relevant? How can we hold fast to this privileged title, but reinterpret it in a way that’s inclusive, updated, realistic, and meaningful?
Jewish mothers in the 21st century are embracing traditional practices and rituals, walking away from those that don’t make sense to us, and creating new ones along the way. We are always seeking and questioning the best way to parent, trying to balance our life decisions with shifting social norms, sometimes bucking conventions, sometimes adhering to them, always trying to do what is right for our children and for ourselves. Through it all, we are struggling with what it means to be a contemporary mother AND to be a Jewish mother today—complicating an already complex dynamic by examining the very notion of what it means to be Jewish, in all of the 21st century permutations.
Yet we remain Jewish mothers, in ways explicit or unarticulated, confident or ambivalent. We hang in there because we find great meaning in our shared history, in a tradition that has sustained individuals and families through centuries of persecution and survival. We find joy in welcoming our children and celebrating holidays, comfort in enjoying the foods and music of our childhoods and communities, and healing in our times of grief. Or maybe we just stick with it because our mothers did—or because they didn’t. Whatever the reason, our journeys through motherhood and Judaism can be exciting and empowering; connecting to our past and our values (even if sometimes we find more questions than answers) can help ground us in an age of seemingly endless possibilities for shaping a life and raising children.
Four months ago I had my ovaries removed. It was a shock. One minute I was fine, the next I was doubled up in pain, certain that my appendix was rupturing. A quick trip to hospital and an ultrasound showed a large tumour on my ovary. I asked if it was cancerous. The Emergency Department Consultant could not tell me. The only specialist who was not on holiday could not see me for 10 days. Why do all specialists go on holiday at the same time? It was the same when my sons needed grommets. They were all away. Shouldn’t doctors have to stagger their holidays like any other professional?
My initial meeting with the specialist was not positive and I thought about seeing someone else, but I was not keen on a 3 month wait. I was frightened that I had cancer, so I went with the first person available.
The appointment started badly when she asked why I was there. I told her that I have a tumour on my ovary and was promptly told that “we don’t call it a “tumour”, it is a “mass””. I knew at that point that it was going to be a rough road. Every other doctor from the ED Consultant through to my GP called it a tumour. There was even an arrow pointing to it on the ultrasound scan which is marked “tumour”. However, I was told firmly that I was not to call it that. I don’t know if this was supposed to make me feel better, or happier or reassured. Either way it achieved nothing and I spent the following week looking up ovarian cancer websites and trying to prepare myself for the worst. The specialist said she could operate a week later so I filled in all the admission paperwork and then hit the chocolate. It did nothing for my waistline but it made me feel brighter. Where there is chocolate there is hope.
I arrived at hospital the following week, petrified and with a bag full of chocolate to get me through the recovery in hospital. Green and Blacks I love you. I will buy shares. It was only your milk chocolate that got me through the following weeks. If you noticed a profits spike in April and May, that was down to me.
After waiting in reception for 2 hours I was taken to a ward full of people waiting to have gynaecological surgery. I was apparently third on the list. Why I had to be there at 6.30am when they did not intend to operate before 11am, beats me.
Once I was in a gown and tucked up in bed, the nurse looking after us all decided we all needed to have an enema. I think she was bored. I was expecting a tube up my bottom so was quite relieved when it just turned out to be a tablet. A modern enema involves a tablet being stuck up your bottom and being told to hold it as long as you can before you race to the toilet. There were 8 of us waiting for surgery. The nurse gave us all an enema within minutes of each other. There was one toilet on the ward. The outcome was predictable to everyone except the nurse administering the tablet. I learned a lot of new yoga positions as I was standing in queue outside the one toilet, trying desperately to hold on. There was no commode available. As I was wheeled off for surgery, I hoped the nurse with the smart idea was the one to have to clean up.
I woke up in my own room after the surgery. I was hungry but the nurse told me that I had to be on clear fluids until my bowel had moved. That proved to be a long time. Why did they give me an enema in the first place? Chicken consommé does not help you have a movement. If it goes in liquid, it comes out liquid. I decided that they were just malicious. Three days of chicken consommé and lime jelly later, I was ready to strangle someone, so I lied. I told the doctor I had been to the toilet. The food ban was lifted. I ate chocolate. It was good, really good. In fact it tasted like manna from heaven. My 6 year old saw it on offer at the local supermarket. My husband and son emptied the shelves. My cupboard overflowed…There is no painkiller as effective as a large bar of Green and Blacks Organic Milk Chocolate. Just liquefy it and hook me up to a drip!
I knew that having my ovaries removed would send me into surgical menopause. What I did not know was how quickly it would happen. The various websites were quite vague about it. I knew that I would need to go on to HRT until the age that I would naturally go into the menopause (generally assumed to be around the age of 51) to replace the oestrogen that was no longer being provided.
I thought that I would be given HRT immediately. Apparently not. The specialist decided it would be good for me to experience what menopause was like before allowing me to have the oestrogen patches. The hot flushes kicked in 2 days post-surgery. I endured 5 days of hot flushes and night sweats before discharging myself against doctor’s orders. Only then did she agree to give me the patches. She told me that women should be able to deal with menopause when it happens, whether or not that is down to surgery. I beg to differ.
I did wonder why I, as her patient, had to suffer because of her beliefs about HRT. It made me wonder how much else of her advice was her opinion, versus official recommendations. I went to see my GP five days later and she was brilliant. When I told her I was still suffering hot flushes and night sweats, she upped my dosage of HRT, saying that nobody needed to suffer unnecessarily. The hot flushes and night sweats stopped within 24 hours. My doctor is the best!
It was a long five weeks until I found out I did not have Ovarian Cancer. The specialist forgot to email my GP with the results, so she found out from me that I was in the clear.
The HRT patches work well. I have had to put an alarm in my phone to remind me to change them twice a week, but apart from that it is all fine. My tummy is squidgier than it was and it was a few weeks before my sons were able to bounce on my lap again. However, I have recovered well and am now back to exercising and back on motherly duties again. All credit to my in-laws who moved in and looked after the children for me while I recovered. All credit to my eldest son who reminded my husband to keep resupplying the chocolate.
While this has been a long story I think the main points I wanted to make are that if you are told that there is something wrong that may be very serious, read around. Don’t just read around the subject, read online reviews of the hospital and the specialist you are seeing. I wish that I had, as the same comments I have made above, had previously been made by others having similar surgery at the same hospital, with the same consultant.
Be willing to look further afield for a consultant and a hospital to have the surgery done at, if this is an option where you live. I looked within a 10 mile radius of my home, at 3 possible hospitals and I based my choice purely on opening hours, not on online reviews. If I had gone as far as 30 miles, I may have had a different experience. Finally, read up on the after effects of the surgery, any follow up medication you may need and the pros and cons of it. Use reputable websites, such as those of national or international charities specialising in your condition. Go into your doctor armed to the teeth with information, don’t just take the specialist’s word for it. Knowledge is power and power is confidence. If you are confident of your information when you face your specialist, you may have a lot better experience than if you accept without question, the information that specialist gives you. Finally, take to the hospital whatever it is that will make you feel good afterwards, as a quick boost every now and again, can only be a good thing for your recovery.