'25 Questions': Jewish Mothers Know Best

Judy Gold's show explores Jewish motherhood.
Judy Gold's show explores Jewish motherhood. (By Carol Rosegg)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Matt Robinson
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 18, 2008

How many Jewish mothers does it take to put on a play?

One -- if it's comedian Judy Gold, who brings her one-woman show, "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother," to Theater J next week.

"25 Questions" explores what it means to be a Jewish mother, touching on identity and acceptance. Gold developed the concept for the play with her writing partner, Kate Moira Ryan. Over five years they traveled across the country, interviewing more than 50 Jewish women of varied backgrounds and ages. Gold came to know the women so well that in the show she assumes their identities ("I sit in a chair and become the women") and shares their stories.

"I love these women so much," Gold says. "I wanted to do them justice."

Gold, 45, an award-winning comedian who has had her own HBO and Comedy Central specials and has helped produce shows for such stars as Rosie O'Donnell, says her own mother, Ruth Gold, was her inspiration for the show.

"I call my mother 10 to 15 times a day," Gold says. "I wouldn't have an act without her!" Not to mention that her mother also has a small part in the show: "My mother does the 'turn off your cellphones' thing," she says, referring to the pre-performance announcement. "Every night when I call her after the show, she asks me if people laughed during her announcement."

And although her mother may still see her as "a comedian without a sense of humor," Gold says, she has always been able to take strength and solace from their relationship.

"She was the only girl in Hebrew school," Gold recalls. "She even says she was the first girl to get bat mitzvahed, but that's not true."

Her mother's strength of faith has apparently made its way to the next generation as well.

"My son had a doctor's appointment and was going to have to be late to Hebrew school, so I told him he didn't have to go," Gold says. "He said he still wanted to. He was just like his grandmother."

Seeing her mother's and son's common thread, Gold also came to see other unifying features among the mothers she interviewed.

"They all feel a need to protect and be in touch with their kids," Gold says, suggesting that her multiple daily calls to her mother are not so aberrant after all.

And all the women she spoke with, Gold says, were willing to share their most intimate thoughts and feelings.

"One husband who was listening in on the interview said, 'I have been with this woman for 40 years and just got to know her today,' " she says. "It was a fascinating journey."

25 Questions for a Jewish Mother Theater J, D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW 800-494-8497 Wednesday-Feb. 24. $15-$50 (pay-what-you-can shows Jan. 23-24). 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother Theater J, D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW 800-494-8497 Wednesday-Feb. 24. $15-$50 (pay-what-you-can shows Jan. 23-24).

© 2008 The Washington Post Company