JFCS to welcome ‘Crazy Jewish Mom,’ long-suffering (but proud) daughter

JFCS to welcome ‘Crazy Jewish Mom,’ long-suffering (but proud) daughter

Author Kate Friedman-Siegel, right, and her “drone mom,” Kim Friedman
Author Kate Friedman-Siegel, right, and her “drone mom,” Kim Friedman

The thing about helicopter parenting is that sometimes it

For Kate Friedman-Siegel, the daughter of a “crazy Jewish mom,” the helicoptering began in the womb. She said her mother, Kim Friedman, “used to tell me a bedtime story about a teeny mouse, and it would always end the same way: ‘You’ll go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton and have a wonderful life.’”

Mother and daughter will talk about Kate’s book “Mother, Can You Not?” (Crown Archetype, 2016) and hang out with attendees at a program sponsored by Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Stuart Country Day
School in Princeton. Kate and Kim spoke with NJJN by phone.

Kim has never stopped expressing strong opinions to her daughter. “The biggest piece of advice she always gave me,” Kate said, was: “I wasn’t allowed to look at boys when I was in elementary and high school.”

This advice made a lot of sense to Kim, whose own mother was widowed and had to run two stores on the boardwalk in Atlantic City to support her family. Kim also had friends who married before completing their education, put their husbands through school, “and wound up with their husbands leaving them.”

“First you have to become independent and independently support yourself,” Kim said, which is what she believes and has always taught her daughter.

Indeed, Kim practiced what she preached. Kate explained: “My mom is an incredibly accomplished woman, an Emmy-nominated television director. She was working at a time in Hollywood when no women were working in entertainment. She blazed a trail for every woman working in media.”

Kim earned a bachelor’s degree in theater, then a master’s in directing, from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, but, said Kate, what got her a job with Joseph Papp — the late famed theatrical producer and director — while she was still in graduate school, was chutzpah. “She wrote him this insane, boldy letter, saying, ‘I’m better than any director — you should hire me to direct Shakespeare in the Park,’” Kate said.

Papp did hire her, Kim said, as his “assistant assistant assistant.”

While it wasn’t a big job, it did put her at rehearsals of “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and she ended up as associate director of the play’s Broadway incarnation, then as director of the national touring company. Eventually she moved into television production and was nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for an episode of “L.A. Law.”

Despite evident pride in her mom, Kate also calls Kim out on her helicoptering — although many of her mother’s interventions have actually  turned out well.

In seventh grade, when Kate ran for student council representative, her mother urged her to wear a Supergirl costume for her campaign speech and come out to a recording of, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s Supergirl.” Kate did — and she won.

More recently, when her mother found out that Rabbi Eitan Webb of Chabad of Princeton University makes matches, she immediately “friended him on Facebook and started begging him to introduce me to people,” Kate said. And in fact Kate met Jon, her fiance, at a party Webb hosted for Princeton alumni.

“It terrifies me because as I get older and I approach starting to have a family, I see things she did and said that I thought were completely insane as a child … making more and more sense to me,” Kate said.

After studying English, creative writing, and theater at Princeton, Kate became a freelancer with Condé Nast Entertainment, eventually becoming associate producer of digital video for “Teen Vogue” and “Bon Appétit” magazine.

But then she jumped at a new opportunity. “I had an Instagram account” — “CrazyJewishMom” — “and started posting messages my mom sent me every single day. Almost automatically, it went viral — 11,000 to 300,000 followers in 24 hours. I immediately knew the first thing I would want to do from this was to write a book,” she said.

Kate’s decision did not sit well with her mother, who said, “She quit her job and left her benefits behind. It was scary for me.”

Nonetheless, Kate is grateful for her mother’s undying support: “She is literally the person I know who has my back more than anyone in the entire world.”

Kim, disdainful of the term “helicopter mom,” uses a stronger term; she is, she said, a “drone mom.”

“I think I say what a lot of people are thinking but don’t say to their kids,” said Kim. “I always say what I think. I believe in really being straightforward.”

JFCS executive director Michelle Napell wrote in an email to NJJN. “‘Mother, Can You Not?’ are words we’ve all said or thought at some point in our lives. Kate Siegel’s mom demonstrates how far Jewish moms will go to show their love.

“We anticipate that this program will evoke lots of memories and laughs … at an evening filled with good company and conversation.

If you go!

What: “Mother, Can You Not?”
Who: Author Kate Friedman-Siegel and her mother, Kim Friedman
Where: Stuart Country Day School, Princeton
When: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6:45 p.m.
Cost: $50, includes wine, small bites, and vendors
Tickets: Text MOMCYN to 51555 or go to jfcsonline.org
Contacts: Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org or 609-987-8100,
ext. 113

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