In her groundbreaking “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan famously referred to “the problem that has no name.”
A few weeks ago I took on the mom that has no name: the fact that we have no pithy and consistent way of identifying non-Jewish women raising Jewish children.
InterfaithFamily.com graciously put out a call on Twitter and on its blog seeking suggestions.
They hardly got a ground swell of responses (I guess next time we’ll have to offer a prize or something), but there were a few interesting ones:
Tzipporahs (referring to Moses’ Midianite wife)
Ger Toshmoms (a twist on Ger Toshav, literally resident foreigner and a word batted around elsewhere to identify supportive non-Jewish spouses of either gender)
Schiksma (presumably, a mix of shiksa and mama)
One person commented: “It’s over a generation since the intermarriage rate passed 52% That means that non-Jewish mothers of Jewish kids are not an aberration, but the norm, even the majority in many/most synagogues. Therefore: Majorette or NorMa.”
Another said, “I know a few women in this position and say the best word is “brave.” The fact that they come into tribe and work so hard to pass down Jewish values is commendable. There is a lot more to being Jewish than showing up at shul a few times a year. These women take it on with an open mind and heart.
A number of people bristled at the idea of a label, however, requesting that we just call them moms. I can understand that, but I still need some way of writing about them. (On a related note, there’s no good term for intermarried individuals and families either — many people find intermarrieds and mixed-marrieds offensive, whereas interfaith is often misleading in cases where the non-Jewish partner practices no other faith or when both see their identities as more culture than faith.)
InterfaithFamily.com is actually having people vote online now, holding out the carrot of “a selection of books for parents and kids” for those who vote for the winning entry.
Separately, in the comment section of my blog, regular reader Susan Barnes (who also has her own blog) suggested, “How about Gen-Moms or InterMoms?”
Frankly, I’m still not thrilled with any of the options out there, although I’m partial to Intermoms and Ger Toshmoms (GT’s for short?)
Majorette is too cheerleader, NorMa makes me think of the “Abby Normal” line from “Young Frankenstein.” (But maybe that’s just my own mishegos.)
Miracle Worker too intertwined with Helen Keller.
What do you think?