the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Shanda (Yiddish for Shame)

When I was a kid, Jewish mothers used to compete with each other over their sons’ professions.  Back then, the big battle was between "my son the doctor" and "my son the lawyer." 

No more.

Today while sitting shiva, three middle-aged Jewish Mothers from the apartment building came to visit:

Jewish Mother #1:  So, Neil, are you still in California?

Neil:  Yes, Los Angeles.

Jewish Mother #1:  My son lives in Encino.   He has his dermatology practice there.

Jewish Mother #2:  My son used to live in California.  Then he became a partner at a law firm in Fort Lauderdale.  He loves it there.

Jewish Mother #3:  My son was an ER doctor in Atlantic City.  Then he was fired for gambling during work hours.

Jewish Mother #1:  Molly, what a shanda!

Jewish Mother #2:  This is terrible!

Jewish Mother #3:    Oh, no.  It was the best thing that ever happened to him.  Now he’s a professional poker player and he’s always on that Texas Hold ’em show on the TV.   He’s won three gold bracelets and a few hundred thousand dollars last year.  He even says he’s good friends with Ben Affleck.

All the other mothers went ooh and ahh over "my son, the professional gambler."


  1. Edgy Mama

    That’s soooo cute. Doctor, lawyer, professional gambler? Of course, writers are professional gamblers, too. Sigh.

  2. Susan

    Poker players win bracelets?

  3. Jack

    I’d love to be a professional gambler, but I hate losing far too much.

  4. Brooke

    Tell JM#2 you know a nice girl in Fort Lauderdale for her lawyer son.

    Only until you get here of course…

  5. claven

    “Vaaaaaary Successful!” said with a smile. Sorry Neil, I couldn’t resist a bad stereotype.

  6. ms. sizzle

    i am deeply disturbed by this post.

    here’s why: my cousin is named Shanda!

    i had no idea all these years that her name is yiddish for shame. that really IS a shame because honestly, she’s a nice girl. who knew an Irish Catholic mom could do such a thing to her daughter? 😉

  7. Leesa

    Too funny–thanks:)

  8. Pearl

    If I didn’t know this was a true story, I’d think it’s a joke being told by some Borscht Belt or Atlantic City Jewish comedian.

    I’ll BET if that son has countless poor performances in his gambling stints, and starts to be in debt up to his eyeballs, that mother will be on her son’s case: “For THIS you spent so many years in medical school!? Maybe it’s time to get off your tuches again, retake the state boards and renew your medical license…!

  9. modigli

    Hey, that would have been a perfect moment to tell the Jewish Mothers that your wife knows Nicolas Cage, and that other really cute actor guy whose name I can’t remember right now! 🙂

  10. maribeth

    My great-aunt used to brag about her grandson’s job (generic banker-type) by saying “he has THREE SUITS!” Once my grandma heard that, nothing we did could beat it.

  11. bella

    you can make a living as a porfessional gambeler? wow. there’s alot I need to learn.

  12. sunshine

    Times have changed for sure!

  13. MA

    I would love to be a professional poker player, but people would be able to tell that I have a good hand because I’d be giddy. Oh well.

  14. JJ

    Holy cow. I friend of my daughter from high school didn’t go on to college with the rest of his classmates. I was fond of him and had hopes for his future, so I was disappointed to hear it. Then, yes, my daughter tells me, “Oh no, he’s doing great. He’s a professional poker player. He wins like $800 every time he sits down at the table so he only has to work once a week.”


  15. danielle

    I won $25 from playing poker with my friends a few weeks ago (we each put in $5 and got a pile of chips)… Maybe I should consider a change of profession.

  16. Hope

    I have a friend from college who just made $17,000 in an online poker tournament. His father is so disappointed in him because he has no interest in doing anything with his college degree. I say, the kid’s obviously got a talent, why not make money off of it?

  17. amanda

    hee-larious. i can totally picture it.

  18. Michael

    Friendship w/Ben Affleck is coveted? Well, maybe if you say he’s Jewish. And his wife’s last name is Garner, sounds like a member of the tribe, too.

  19. Michael Blowhard

    It’s called “kvelling”, right? This bragging-and-beaming-about- how-well-the-kid-is-doing? Where I grew up, kids whose mothers kvelled got beaten up. Maybe that’s a reason why not many of them wound up in med school …

  20. Melanie

    Sounds like a scene straight out of The Nanny. Hilarious!

  21. Scotch

    This is my favorite kind of dialogue.

    A lot of people might claim that it has that New Yorker/Atlantic Monthly little quirk to it. I couldn’t disagree more. This is so real it’s artless.

    I can hear the pauses. And the rush to get into the conversation.


  22. Introspectre

    How bizarre. The times, they are a-changin’.

  23. psychotoddler

    Apparently, the only way to be considered successful is to live near an Ocean. I can only imagine if my mother were in on that conversation:

    Jewish Mother #4: My son is a doctor in Milwaukee.

    Jewish Mother #3: Milvauke? Ver is dat?

    Jewish Mother #2: By Kansas.

    Jewish Mother #1: Feh. Vy couldn’t he be an underemployed pornographic screenwriter like Neil? At least HE lives near the Pacific.

    Jewish Mother #4: Oy, de Pacific.

  24. Shanda Atkinson

    By the way my name is Shanda Lynne Thank you very much!!!

  25. Shanda

    Shanda in the heavenly language means JOY UNSPEAKABLE. Shanda is loving and kind. Shanda loves the Lord (Jesus Christ). Do you know Jesus? Is He your Lord and Savior on today? You should try Him…He loves you and He cares. As Shanda, that’s who I represent and there is no shame in my name because Jesus gave it to me. God bless you!

  26. Neil

    Shanda, I’m happy for you, but I think we are talking about two different shandas.

  27. Shanda

    hahaha… my name is Shanda…
    oh dear.
    i think i may change it now.

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