before college i had never even tasted a bagel. i’m not even sure if i knew what a bagel was. in the town where i grew up there weren’t too many jewish people or at least i didn’t know it if there were – religion was never a big topic of discussion for me. in fact, i didn’t even realize my friend from high school, debbie feldman, was jewish until i was in college and discovered that feldman was a jewish name. it was at university of hartford where i got my real education in religion. i was one of two gentiles in my freshman dorm complex. me and dagmar stadlebauer – almost everyone else’s name ended in a man, berg, stein (steen) or a stein (stine).
it was also at u-ha i met my roommate debbie weinstein. at first i never would have guessed that we would become friends. not because she was jewish – but because she wore pink sweaters with alligators on them and penny loafers. there wasn’t a whole lot of that in the sleepy town i was raised in either. we didn’t have a lot in common back then but when you live in a 10 x 10 room with 3 people you either become really good friends or really good enemies. ellen regenbogen was our enemy roommate.
debbie’s family was from boston and we often went there on weekends and jewish holidays. it was at debbie’s house that i tasted my first matzoh, discovered real chicken soup for the first time and ate my first seder meal. debbie’s dad, mort weinstein and i hit it off immediately and he took real pleasure in having a genuine ‘goyum’ at the table. he would pretty much make fun of me the whole time and crack himself up in the process. while holding back her own laughter, diane, debbie’s mom, would roll her eyes at mort & tell him to stop. mort was loud and funny – and always the center of attention and called me out for everything i didn’t know about being jewish – although diane would have wished it otherwise, constantly repeating, “mort, stop!” i loved the jewish holidays with the weinsteins.
in the 20+ years since i graduated college, i’ve been to many other seders but none have been quite as colorful as the weinsteins’ because mort wasn’t there. this year the weinsteins will celebrate passover without mort.
mr. weinstein passed away in january but i will remember him at tonight’s seder and i will send love, light and good wishes to the whole weinstein family.
“Gentiles are people who eat mayonnaise for no reason.”
– Robin Williams