by Julia Shedlin
She is the woman who wakes up in the morning with plans to conquer what terrifies her. She is the woman who is not intimidated by the sexy mom on the playground or the buxom co-worker who always gets what she wants. She lives her life from a place of purpose, passion and power.
She is the hot mamalah and author Lisa Alcalay Klug devotes her new book Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe to her.
“Every woman wants to be more confident and powerful. And every hot mamalah is able to do that with playfulness, charm and chutzpah. She is the over-the-top, exuberant, sometimes outrageous woman who always makes you laugh. She’s irresistible. You just can’t help but love her,” Klug says.
Hot Mamalah is Klug’s second book; the first was Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe. Klug says the inspiration for Hot Mamalah came while writing Cool Jew.
Hot Mamalah is a pop culture humor book that looks at life as one giant celebratory feast. The table of contents is designed as a French menu with cocktails, appetizers, entrees and, of course, dessert. And like the menu, the entire book plays with the juxtaposition of French and Yiddish terms. Every chapter starts with the French name for the course, such as hors d’oeuvre, followed by a Yiddish term in whimsical hot pink letters swooping across the page.
Much of Hot Mamalah reads like a juicy women’s magazine (although even more tongue-in-cheek) with tips, tricks, recipes, lists, and more. A “Challah Fame” features a large directory of Jewish female celebrities, a chart matching your underwear to your personality, flirtatious Purim costumes, and much, much more.
Many real-life kitschy gifts are sprinkled into the chapters as art. When Klug found a joke product called “Cougar Soap,” for instance, she came up with an entry entitled “Essential Cougar Terminology.” (Just so you know, a Cougarita is a Jewtina cougar.) Other novelty items shown include “Convert to Judaism Breath Spray,” “Erase Your Past Tea,” and “Bacon Lip Balm,” for those who don’t actually eat bacon but still want to make space for it in their life.
The book is tons of fun to look at, thanks in large part to the black and white line illustrations by artist Yael Albert, a graduate of Israel’s Bezalel Art Academy.
If you had told Klug while she was a student that she would one day write Jewish humor books, she may not have believed you. Prior to earning a master’s degree in journalism at University of California, Berkeley, Klug pursued a doctorate in Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her father is a survivor of Buchenwald who was very close to death when the concentration camp was liberated in 1945. Her relationship to her father and his life story have greatly impacted her writing, even when the focus is showing readers the humor in being Jewish.
“One of my father’s mottos is ‘never be ashamed of being Jewish.’ My books express everything there is to know about being Jewish and loving it. To know where you come from, own it and celebrate it,” Klug says.
Her maternal background also influences her work. Klug descends from a long line of Sephardic women. Her grandmother, a native of Jerusalem, told Klug that her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother emigrated from Bulgaria to the Holy Land on a donkey in the 1800s. The journey took them three years.
“That story really speaks to me about the strength of Jewish women and their incredible commitment to our heritage,” Klug says. “There is an incredible power Jewish women possess. And I feel so honored to celebrate that. It’s what being a hot mamalah is all about.”