Even those of us who have a fairly idyllic relationship with our Jewish parents are sometimes confronted with some pretty grating idiosyncrasies. That can definitely be said about Alex Borstein, who has been sharing some incredibly entertaining videos of her recent stay in her parents’ home on Instagram, and of the family’s Rosh Hashanah festivities.
Borstein, who we’ve most recently loved as Susie Myerson in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” thanked her parents, Judy and Irv, for her multiple Emmy wins, and dedicated her 2019 award to her Holocaust survivor grandmother. Irv and Judy are also featured prominently in her latest comedy special.
With the recent SAG-AFTRA strike and “Maisel” ending, Borstein finally has some time to spend at her parents’ home, and she’s using her Instagram to share their strange (and for many of us, painfully familiar) habits — which are kind of endearing when you watch them as an outsider, and probably pretty maddening when you’re a witness to them 24/7. Despite her suffering, the Instagram documentation Borstein has produced deserves several awards. Let me walk you through it.
Her first post from her parents’ house set the scene: In the first photo, a caftan hangs on the bathroom door with a white brassiere on the knob; in the second, a used single-use plastic glove daintily rests on a paper tower along with some stain remover and Febreeze. Next came a tin of sardines, a box of sugar-free cookies, and a moldy container of cream cheese. These snapshots of an older Jewish couple’s home almost belong in a museum (or maybe just a gallery at your local JCC).
Then came the videos. Like David Attenborough, Borstein walked us through the perplexing minutiae of her parents’ daily lives. First there was the single paper plate that her parents wash and use over and over while they have a cabinet full of lovely Mikasa china:
Borstein also found her mom at the sink, washing take out containers despite the fact she has a cupboard full of Tupperware. I personally find that less egregious than the paper plate debacle. Please let me know if you disagree.
We then got to join Borstein and her mother at Costco (Costco also came up when I interviewed Borstein back in May). While trying to shop for bulk groceries, Borstein found her mom giggling in the not-oft-frequented book aisle, perusing a book about the Mona Lisa with a flower in her hair and donning a Costco vest with the tag still on it (I must take a moment to say that Judy does look pretty fab in her Costco best).
“I’m almost tempted to buy this but I think your dad would disown me,” she tells her daughter who beseeches her with a “should we move on to the toilet paper aisle?” Honestly, going to Costco with your Jewish parents is pretty darn brave, and I’m glad Alex survived it.
Another one of the Borsteins’ sustainability attempts seems to be salvaging half-full seltzer and soda cans. In one video, Borstein comes back from a walk on the beach longing for a drink and opens the fridge to find a can of Waterloo soda (probably from Costco?) with a film of saran wrap on top (to keep the bubbles in). She samples it and compares it to flat “toilet water.”
In another video, she finds her mom drinking soda from a can that has a kind of sealing contraption — which she got from Amazon. Later in the video, you can see Judy wash what appears to be a non-reusable plastic straw in the sink.
For those interested, these look like the lids Borstein’s parents have, though these vaguely turtle-shaped ones might be better at keeping the bubbles in, and these beer cap shaped ones are pretty cute. My husband reports that some people use tin foil. I personally have zero experience with trying to keep carbonated beverages carbonated in the fridge but it seems to me like a futile, Sisyphean effort.
Borstein also documented Judy’s constant spraying of her glass and transparent plastic furniture with Windex, which she laments geta scratched easily but refuses to replace — the “Wonder Woman plane aesthetic,” as Alex remarks in one video (I’m sure Gal Gadot would approve).
“Have you ever thought of just not having a glass table?” Alex asks her mother, before remarking that the older Borstein still has a tag on her pants (which I’m pretty sure are from, you guessed it, Costco). These videos are just a treasure.
Yet, aside from these somewhat perplexing habits, Borstein has also shared some really fun bonding moments between her parents and her children, including a video of Irv and her daughter putting on a foaming facial mask together, and a very rigorous ping pong game between Judy and her granddaughter.
Then there’s this super sweet photograph of Borstein, her daughter and her mother sleeping together in one bed, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” style.
Borstein left her house in early September, but returned a few days later to celebrate Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year — and of course, she took out her phone and started recording Judy, aka Anyu (mom in Hungarian) making matzah ball soup.
“Tonight is Rosh Hashanah and we are celebrating the Jewish New Year, no kidding aside,” Judy tells the camera, standing over a steaming pot of soup.
Borstein corrects her mother’s misuse of the common expression: “You want to say ‘all kidding aside.'”
“No, I don’t want to say that, I want to say it my way,” Judy responds defiantly and I must say, as a fellow immigrant, I want her to say it her way, too, because it’s absolutely winning.
As Alex takes one hand from the camera to gently tuck a strand of errant (but obviously blow-dried!) hair behind her mother’s ear, the conversation turns to a subject oft explored by our people — the amount of salt in the soup. While Judy wanted to make it sodium-free, she unfortunately had to resort to low-sodium instead, which still has “1600 mg of fucking sodium,” she curses, “so that may kill your father, but it may not be such a bad way to go. On Rosh Hashanah, it’s an honor.”
I think we can all see where Borstein gets her dark, and very Jewish, sense of humor.
In another video, Borstein asks her mother about the blue gloves she wears in the kitchen, which some of us may recall from an earlier bathroom scene. “This is my equipment for cooking and also for cleaning the toilet,” Judy explains, but adds that the bathroom gloves are “a deeper blue” and that she can confidently tell them apart. As terrifying as it may be, I think we have to trust Judy on this one.
And then, as most Rosh Hashanah dinners often do, the conversation turns again to sports, and Judy gives what is probably her most controversial opinion. When she explains that her oven mitt is a Chicago Bears-branded one, she says, “Americans have this obsession with fucking football teams, like anybody cared in the world, nobody gives a shit about football teams, normal people never do,” Judy rants.
Alex then tells her, rightfully, that “you are going to make a lot of enemies” with those words — including Alex herself. Yet somehow, I don’t see Judy being very scared of making enemies.
Watching these videos and pictures of Borstein and her family, it’s obvious that they all adore each other — and drive each other wonderfully up the wall. I have to say, there’s something comforting about watching someone else’s slightly unhinged family and knowing that it’s not yours — not my circus, not my monkeys (though we all wouldn’t mind being adopted by Judy and Irv, I’m sure).
No kidding aside, I would happily watch 500+ hours of Borstein family footage. Maybe a TV studio could take it up once the strike is over?
Shana tova to the entire Borstein family. May your year be as joyful as these videos make us feel!