Maureen Lipman’s scathing attack on the ethics of Jewish Mum TV series
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
TV actress Maureen Lipman launched a scathing attack on the ethics of Channel 4’s Jewish Mum of the Year series during a heated debate on Monday night (January 21).
Ms Lipman, who herself appeared as a Jewish mother in BT advertisements in the late 1980s, described the series as “dangerous” to the Jewish community and and also branded it “patronising” and “deeply, deeply mocking”.
But at the standing room only event at the London Jewish Cultural Centre in Golders Green, the programme was stoutly and defiantly defended by its maker, fellow panellist Richard Ferrer.
He promised that the series would be “bigger and bolder” should it ever return to TV screens.
Audience members were sharply divided during the often raucous two-hour debate as Ms Lipman’s comments were greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers.
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She said: “The face that was presented of the Jewish community was a face I’ve never seen in 65 years.”
Raising her voice above the din of the audience, she said: “Is there going to be Catholic mother of the year? A Quaker one? A Baha’i one? Or just the Jews and the Gypsies, as usual.”
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The actress, who was married to the late playwright Jack Rosenthal – the winner of three BAFTA awards for his TV play Bar Mitzvah Boy, added: “Do you think researching cocktails and women decorating Israeli trousers shows what it means to be a Jewish mother? I want something that doesn’t patronise my people. That’s what I want on Channel 4.”
The series, which pitted eight Jewish mothers against each other as they completed tasks such as preparing food for a Bar Mitzvah party or setting up blind dates, has caused controversy in the Jewish community.
Some celebrated it as a positive depiction of diverse Jewish life and applauded its prime-time slot, while others labelled it an “embarrassment”.
But the programme’s creator Mr Ferrer, who is also editor of The Jewish News, said he “regretted absolutely nothing”.
He said: “I know I’ll get pelted with eggs, but I wouldn’t do anything differently – maybe bigger and bolder.
“What I would like do is take it to the States, and we would see how loud and open the American Jews are.”
When asked if the programme fuelled anti-Semitism, he said: “If I thought for a moment that was true, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
Ms Lipman also railed against his decision to cast Professor Dovid Kotz as a judge and said: “He was picked to make us look like stereotypical, greasy, fat yobs – that’s why he was picked.”
One of the show’s contestants, Mother-of-five Emma Beck, defended the programme as “entertainment”, but she admitted that what was broadcast was not what she had signed up for.
“It never showed what a good mother was,” said Mrs Beck. “The title was wrong. It was to antagonise and make people watch it. But it did not fuel anti-Semitism.”