Author: Elkin, Michael
Date published: May 5, 2011
Journal code: JWEX
Jill Zarin knows how to turn on a lightbulb. Here's the twist: The enlightened reality-TV star really wouldn't prefer to sit in the dark.
Indeed, the bright beauty would rather shed and shred stereotypes about Jewish mothers, while shedding light on what it really means to be a mom with a huge hug for life. And she brings it all to light in Secrets of a Jewish Mother, which just arrived in paperback.
It's no secret that the star with a sequined life is a mainstay of Bravo TV's "The Real Housewives of New York," which just premiered its fourth season, with Zarin as one of the premier mainstays, arguably the best of the bunch to bundle practicality and plush living into a perfect Mother's Day presence.
She makes book on it with Secrets, alongside fellow authors she can relate to: Her sister, Lisa Wexler, and Mom herself, Gloria Kamen.
It's more than a come on for sales; life lessons learned through the years provide a lesson plan for the book, offering a triptych of tricks and treats that are at the heart - and flowers - of the new millennium's Jewish mom.
The reality star thanks her lucky stars she was born to the glorious woman others know as Gloria. "Having her as my mother - I was lucky, and so are my friends," who know if they need help, she's the one to call. "My friends have adopted her as their own; she tells them, 'If you ever come to Florida, come stay with us.'"
Early lessons learned stayed with Jill, who claims she wouldn't know jack about Jewish mothering if it weren't for her own. "She is the original Jewish mother; we," she says of sister/co-author Lisa, "are just cheap copies."
All with ideas on how to lift the fog and extract a day from the daze of this Sunday's celebration of moms. Secrets of a Jewish Mother doesn't whisper its resolve, but whips readers into shape with advice. And one need not be Jewish to benefit from a Jewish mother's embrace.
Her mother as counselor where it counts became even more of a comfort level when Zarin signed on for "Housewives," whose first season was in 2008.
Letters, we get letters - well, actually, email: "Hundreds of viewers email me looking for help," says the hot housewife. She then sends "many of them on to my mother," a one-time advice columnist.
You've got male - and female viewers - wanting to know what to do about their children, their jobs, their lives. And while the image of Jewish mom is that of know-it-all, some stereotypes don't deserve the high-five.
"We want to demystify stereotypes," says Zarin of how she and her co-authors page truths to knock down myth-takes, notably that all Jews covet money.
Not that talk is cheap but, concedes Zarin with a chuckle, stereotypes do find their way into the chapter on exercise. Re: cycling? "If you could count talking as exercise, we'd all be in good shape."
Zarin is the talk of the tow^n for the terrific shape she's in: Just check out the TV/magazine time and space spent on the vexing question of whether or not she has had plastic surgery in the past weeks. "It's like I reinvented the wheel or discovered the cure for cancer," she says, mocking the overexposure of media concern about what turned out to be a "liquid facelift."
Cut to the chase: "It must have been a slow news week." But the topic will fast find its way onto an upcoming "Housewives" episode.
It certainly wasn't topic A in her A-list appearance recently in Philadelphia, joining her mother and sister as headliners at a gala sponsored by Philadelphia's Chapter of Hadassah. "What a beautiful community of women," praised Zarin, citing Hadassah's work to raise funds for their hospital in Israel, where "so many people are helped if they - God forbid! - need to go."
God forbid she wouldn't have said God forbid? "That is the favorite phrase of Jewish mothers everywhere."
That and "Put on a sweater, I feel a chill." "My mother will call me and say it might rain tomorrow take an umbrella. I'll say, 'Mom, I'm 47!'
"But, you know, I give up. I've stopped fighting it."
No more saber-rattling; foiled again. "The core issue of all the fights and arguments" mothers and children have "is one thing: It's all about being right.
"And, you know, she's right."
All three authors write from personal perspectives of life's rites and wrong in Secrets, and so much hits home. But then, is Zarin a hit at home with Allyson, 18, her daughter from her first marriage? (Jill is happily wed now, and for some time, to warehouse/home-furnishings magnate Bobby Zarin, for whose store she handles marketing; she also runs her own Jill Zarin Enterprises.)
"She will be a nice Jewish mother herself when we find her a nice Jewish boy to marry," claims Zarin, a zealous believer in Jews marrying Jews. Keep the faith? "Our ancestors fought so hard to survive and it's a shandah, a sign of disrespect to not marry within the faith."
Couldn't some of the "Housewives" use a little bit of Jewish mother pixie-dust sprinkled on their sequined lives? "Everybody could use that," says Zarin, laughing.
But, all the "Housewives" are "good mothers."
And God forbid anyone would say differently!
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