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Light-hearted look at Jewish mother archetype

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OWN CORRESPONDENT

Looking at the history of “The Jewish mother” as a symbol or motif, this colourful character was developed mainly by her sons, who were writing for Broadway and Hollywood in the early 20th century.

The Jewish mother can almost be viewed as a projection of a predominantly patriarchal society. There are hundreds of jokes based on her behaviour – her possessiveness, her self-pity and her almost obsessive involvement with her children.

However, her story is also one of immense courage and strength. It was this mother, who at times of great uncertainty and transition, held the family together as a unit. She gave the emotional support and inspiration necessary to keep everyone unified, particularly when Jews as immigrants often found themselves living in poverty and facing extreme prejudice.

Simanowitz calls her own unique mode of theatre “communication cabaret”, a modern, humorous form of conscious-raising and knowledge transfer based on communication training. It combines theatre, stand-up, music and interaction with the audience to raise awareness of the dynamics of relationships in a way that is light-hearted and humorous, but with serious undertones.

Who’s Afraid of the Jewish Mother? is delightfully witty; it pays homage to this strong female figure and to a people who had to fight for their dignity and their identity, in a strange and often hostile world.

* Simanowitz is an international communications trainer and performer who studied literature and drama in Cape Town and London before becoming a teacher and drama therapist. In 1983, she moved to Austria.

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