Explain "Jewish guilt"

To go along with the Catholic guilt thread, I thought I should also start one about “Jewish guilt.” Namely, what is it? I always hear this term but I’ve never understood what it was supposed to mean.

I am not sure it is what you mean, but whenever I have seen the phrase Jewish Guilt used, it is in terms of the most powerful weapon Jewish Mother’s have.

Guilt. They have the ability to Guilt their kids, especially sons into doing whatever the mother wants. Through ages of practices and passing it down to their daughters, Jewish Moms have perfect this art form.

It is more a running joke that is perpetuated by Jewish Comedians but yet I have seen it in action with both my Jewish Mother-In-Law and some Jewish friends I had in High School.


Judaism is a very ethical religion. No big worries about heaven and hell and all that crap. It’s important, though, to be moral. So Jews are always feeling guilty about not being moral enough, and about not doing a good enough job at things.

At least, that’s how my wife explained it to me. However, in spite of having been raised Orthodox, outside of her own parental shortcomings (which she doesn’t really have, BTW) I don’t see her as being all that prone to guilt.

My mother was my travel agent for guilt trips :smiley:

“Don’t let your son know that you fainted in the supermarket because you’re so tired and malnourished. But make sure he knows you’re not letting him know.”

I asked an Israeli friend of mine about ‘Original Sin’, he said that they just don’t have it.

While he is not at all religious, he comes from a well known Rabbinical family, and is pretty clued up.

The Jewish momma stuff is something else, I suspect that it is a Middle-European thing.

Jews own guilt. Catholics just rent it. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet it’s somehow related to the time-honored tradition of jewish grandmothers thinking that their relations are starving to death if more than 15 minutes elapse between meals.

Don’t ever refuse food from a Jewish grandmother. Argue about it? If you’re up to a challenge. Flat-out refuse? Oh boy you’re in trouble now.

Plus interest, of course.

Attempting a vaguely serious answer, I will do my best to avoid stereotyping. I think that Jewish families tend to be very close knit, and, in my experience, tend to support their kids, emotionally and financially, for a lot longer than many others. Essentially, we’re all still tied to our mothers’ apron strings. My dad and my brother were/are both so taken care of by their mothers, it’s unbelievable. (To be fair, this is not a gender thing - my mom would dearly love to coddle me as well. I’m just not as good a sport.)

So my experience of Jewish guilt is this: I love my mom a lot. She won’t tell me straight out what I can or can’t do. What she DOES do is know exactly how to get to me, and she uses this tool to make me think her option is the better of the two, because my option would make her so miserable, I’d feel so guilty that I’d be miserable too, and what’s the point in that?

How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

“No, no, don’t worry about me. You go, do your own thing, I’ll just sit here in the dark.”


Not that kind of Jewish guilt… Mein Gott, Shmuel, it’s going too far, so much interest we’re charging these goyim, at night I can’t sleep any more! :smiley:

What about Jewish “gelt”, like those gold foil covered chocolate coins in the little bags you see around Hanukkah-tide? Now that’s good stuff. (I’ve often wondered how long it will take for that to “cross over” into Chinese American traditions involving Chinese New Year, which is usually not too long after Hanukkah on the temporal calendar.)

Damnit! I was SO going to post this! Good thing I read the entire thread first :wink:

Oh, and I was away for a couple of weeks. It’s OK that nobody noticed, really, it’s OK.

Dan Greenberg? :slight_smile:

Catholic guilt: feeling of remorse, self-doubt, or personal responsibility that results when a Catholic engages in “sinful” acts. It’s guilt that is self-imposed, because someone feels they’re not worthy enough in the eyes of God.

Example: you don’t call your mother that often, and you feel guilty because you’re breaking the commandment of “Honor your mother and father”, and thus eing unworthy of salvation because you’re sinning in the eyes of God.

Jewish guilt: guilt that isn’t self-imposed, but rather brought on by another party, usually a parent or mate, often in an attempt to be manipulative. God usually doesn’t enter the picture.

Example: you don’t call your mother that often, and she makes you feel guilty for it, in an indirect, roundabout way. “I guess you’re too busy to call your bubbe. That’s okay. I’ll just sit here at home alone, with nobody to talk to. I’ll read a book. Don’t worry about me.”

Self-imposed guilt does occur as a part of Jewish guilt, but again God doesn’t enter the picture. It may be a feeling that you didn’t do enough to help someone when they needed it, or, among Holocaust survivors, that you lived while millions of others, many better people than you in your eyes, died.

I was raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. People who have just one or the other cannot know the guilt levels possible. Disappointing Jesus and your grandmother… it’s too much.