Column: I’m a little Jewish .. and proud of it


The reason the most recent assault on the synagogue in Pittsburgh is so troublesome to me is that I, secretly, am Jewish.

You can laugh at that, if you want. But the truth is there and there always is a back story to how a person feels.

Again, people were destroyed by a troubled human being. This is not new to any of us.

But if this is indicative of elevated bad feelings in this country, it is more than sad.

I had a business in Washington, D.C. And one of my dearest friends was Jerome Litvin. He operated a store named Western Market. I sold my bran muffins, pies and breads to him.

He became a mentor.

He would always love it when I could make it to his store on the west side of the District of Columbia, especially when it was a horrible weather day.

Horrible weather days in Washington defy description. First, the city is really bad about getting out snowplowss. Then, you have to cope with people who are new to this country, working as cab drivers.

I made it to Western Market once, on a day when getting there was pretty slippery.

Jerry said it was a “jump start” kind of day. He loved the things I made, and once said I had “golden fingers.” This was because my pies were distinctive.

Everything we did was made from scratch. Real pie dough. And, my signature was a hand-worked lattice crust.

Jerry — very Jewish and very successful — always honored me. He worked with a gentleman named David Mermelstein. Mr. Mermelstein (we called him The Merm) had been in the Holocaust.

Many other friends in Washington were Jewish.

When I was in college at The Ohio State University, most of the girls in my dorm were Jewish, from the big city.

So I picked up many terms.

The girls from New York City could be easily identified. They looked down on the hicks from the Ohio boonies. Back then, girls at Ohio State who were just out of high school would wear class rings given them by their high school boyfriends.

If only I had a photo of the ring given me by my beau. It was, to me, a work of art. His ring, of course, was too large. But we clever girls would put tape and fingernail polish on them, to make them fit us better.

Once, a clearly Jewish girl from New York City accosted me in the cafeteria. She said they just didn’t see stuff like that in the city. These Jewish lasses would do things like iron their hair, to make it perfectly straight.

I witnessed this. Did I judge?

No.

But borrow phrases?

Oh, yes,

I had the habit of saying “oy” quite a lot.

Once, when I was in a hospital following a horrific accident, I couldn’t say much, but I would use the term “oy.”

The nurses asked my husband John if that was pig Latin.

He said no, I just was fond of that term.

I, of course, had no memory of doing any of that. But I loved being able to pretend I was a bit Jewish.

When the Pittsburgh horror occurred, one of the persons interviewed on television was Howard Fineman. I knew him from my time in Washington. He was a journalist then — covering politics — and he met with me when I worked for the late John Glenn.

On television, Fineman recounted what life was like in the neighborhood of the Pittsburgh church. It was an unassuming, unspoiled place. Populated by caring, not exaggerating people.

For me, being a bit Jewish is not a bad thing.

Photo courtesy Louise Swartzwalder A signature piece of pie, courtesy Takoma Kitchens and Louise Swartzwalder.
https://www.thebellvillestar.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2018/11/web1_Louise-Swartzwalder-1.jpgPhoto courtesy Louise Swartzwalder A signature piece of pie, courtesy Takoma Kitchens and Louise Swartzwalder.

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