Book cover illustration of a woman blowing a shofar, with two children emerging from the other end.

We all know the stereotype of the Jewish mother: Hectoring, guilt-inducing, clingy as a limpet. In Mamaleh Knows Best, former Tablet Magazine columnist Marjorie Ingall smashes this tired trope with a hammer. Blending personal anecdotes, humor, historical texts, and scientific research, Ingall shares Jewish secrets for raising self-sufficient, ethical, and accomplished children. She offers abundant examples showing how Jewish mothers have nurtured their children’s independence, fostered discipline, urged a healthy distrust of authority, consciously cultivated geekiness and kindness, stressed education, and (vitally) maintained a sense of humor. These time-tested strategies are the reason Jews have triumphed in a wide variety of settings and fields over the vast span of history. Ingall will make you think, she will make you laugh, and she will make you a better parent.


Cover of "Mamaleh Knows Best"

Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Harmony Books,
The Crown Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-0804141413

Mamaleh Knows Best is an erudite yet amusing cruise through Jewish history, marshaling evidence to show that Jewish parenting methods are responsible for the outsized success of the Jewish people. Former Tablet Magazine columnist Marjorie Ingall blends historical texts, scientific research, humor and personal anecdotes to create a nuanced portrait of the Jewish Mother that smashes tired old sexist stereotypes.


Marjorie Ingall

Marjorie Ingall is the author of Mamaleh Knows Best, which Publishers Weekly (in a starred review) called “a comedy routine…full of chutzpah and pizzazz.” She’s also the co-author, with Susan McCarthy, of Getting to Sorry: The Art of Apology at Work and at Home (originally published as Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies) and the co-creator of the apology watchdog site She often writes about children’s books for the New York Times Book Review and has written for many other magazines and newspapers, including Tablet and The Forward — she was a columnist for both — as well as Town & Country, Glamour, Self, Ms., Elle, New York, and Newsweek. Back in the day, she was the senior writer and books editor at the late, lamented Sassy. In past lives, she co-wrote a budget travel guide to the Dodecanese Islands; waitressed for one day at Alan Dershowitz’s short-lived kosher deli; co-wrote a book with a plus-size supermodel; taught history to unnervingly sophisticated middle-school students in Massachusetts; ghostwrote a memoir for a celebrity who promoted it on “The Daily Show”; and worked on the startup team at the Oxygen TV network, where she discovered that her perkiness levels were not up to a job in daytime talk television. She has three (3) cats.

• Parse excellent and abysmal apologies with me at SorryWatch
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Getting to Sorry: The Art of Apology at Work and at Home is out now! Check it out.


Kveller and Motherwell‘s Best Books of 2016!

Publishers Weekly (starred review): “In this insightful and humorous guide to being a better parent, Ingall, a columnist for Tablet magazine who grew up Conservative, attended an Orthodox day school, and married a Reform Jew, draws on her own experience as a mother, as well as a plethora of Jewish and secular sources, to create a highly readable parenting manual that takes into account just about every issue a parent might encounter. Ingall begins by explaining the history of the stereotypical Jewish mamaleh and her age-old wisdom, and goes on to tackle topics such as maintaining discipline, distrusting authority , and emphasizing education without fetishizing it. The ultimate goal is ‘to keep our kids from becoming schmucks’ and raise ‘self-sufficient, ethical, and accomplished kids.’ Yiddish words are thrown around (a glossary at the end will help) as she performs a comedy routine that is full of chutzpah and pizzazz. Ingall implores parents to be firm and sincere, and help their children create meaning in their lives. Ingall’s engaging guide will help parents, Jewish or not, navigate the jagged terrain of child-rearing with a hearty dose of confidence and laughter.”

Kirkus:“Forget the tiger mom. What an aspiring superchild—or just a mensch, even—needs is a good Jewish mother. What’s the difference, asks Tablet columnist Ingall (The Field Guide to North American Males, 1997, etc.), repeating an old Borscht Belt joke, between said mother and a Rottweiler? A Rottweiler eventually lets go. Granted, writes the author, in a fraught time, compounded by the Holocaust being a living memory, there are reasons for mamaleh to keep a close eye on the kids. Whether pampered and overprotected or not, the success of Jewish children in adulthood is all out of proportion to the population. If 1 percent of the world is Jewish, then half of the Pulitzer Prize winners in nonfiction and one in five Nobel Prize winners belong to the tribe, a pattern that extends far back in history. So how to keep from suffocating the kid before he or she grows up into that genius of promise? Maybe worry a little less, try to be a little happier, and try to relax. Still, raising a ‘family with traditional Jewish values’ involves plenty of nurturing and plenty of time. Admonishing that the parent is the child’s primary educator, Ingall counsels careful attention to transmitting those values of education, spirituality, honesty, and the like while encouraging independence and the untrammeled development of personality. This entails a bit of risk, of course. ‘I want my kids to learn to cook,’ she writes, adding good-naturedly, ‘because, hey, less work for me.’ But learning to cook means ruining a few dishes, scorching a saucepan or two, and maybe destroying a few utensils—which means getting used to the idea of letting the kid fail in order to learn. Few of Ingall’s useful, reader-friendly prescriptions would be out of place in a goyish child development manual, but the flavor is echt Jewish and plenty tasty at that.”

The New York Times Book Review: It’s a full page. (A rave! Short version: “Rich, insightful”!)

Good Housekeeping: “In this entertaining mash-up of memoir and research, the author deftly (and humorously) dissects the truth from the stereotype of the Jewish mother. Throughout Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children, she offers life lessons and tried-and-true parenting advice for raising self-sufficient, ethical and motivated children.”

Real Simple: “…you’ll find infinite insight, brilliant advice, and plenty of laughter here. Ingall performs a high-wire act, blending history, personal anecdotes, theology, and high and low culture to illustrate strategies for raising children who are both accomplished and kind…This is more than a parenting book. It’s a guide for living.”

Chicago Tribune: “…funny and insightful…Ingall’s theory is that a religion that stresses learning and debate has combined with a long history of religious persecution to create a distinctive approach to child rearing that’s heavy on learning, humor and skepticism, embraces geekiness in all its forms, and encourages children to pursue their own passions.”

The Times of Israel: “Refreshingly, Ingall writes about parents learning from their mistakes, as well. She encourages mothers to strive to be merely good-enough, not consistently perfect…The author spends the first chapter of ‘Mamaleh Knows Best’ explaining the origin of the oft-mocked stereotype of Jewish mothers as ‘suffocating, whining, melodramatic, demanding grief givers.’ The image actually goes back only as far as post-WWII America, a period of post-Holocaust anxiety, mass moves to the suburbs, and children embarrassed by their Old Country parents. Prior to the 1950s, Jewish mothers worldwide were largely admired for supporting their families economically and emotionally, and raising educated and successful children — regardless of whether they were living in hostile or welcoming environments….Those who have followed Ingall’s writing over the years will recognize her insightful, humorous and engaging style in this book.”

New York Family: “Marjorie Ingall’s wise, funny, and empowering take on parenting—for people of any background—is written just for this moment.”

Jewish Journal: “Nora Ephron meets child psychologist Wendy Mogel…Dealing with the ups and downs of parenting in the modern age has never been such a fun and rewarding read.”