Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Search of a Pastrami Sandwich, and my lost Youth

This evening I stayed a little too late at the office making phone calls, and then made a futile visit to a bookstore, looking for a very particular cookbook that they didn't have in stock. I got home a little late and very hungry.

I didn't want to cook supper; my husband didn't want to cook supper. What should we do? We discussed various options (Pie Shop, Sports-Themed Restaurant, Cafeteria). None of them really got us excited. Then my husband said, "How about Fishman's Deli?"

I had heard about Fishman's from an old high school friend of mine. One of my classmates owns this Restaurant, Bakery and Deli in my hometown. We decided that this was a good idea. It has the added bonus of being a trip down memory lane for me.

The kosher grocery store and bakery takes up most of the space, with a small eating area in the front. Since we were eating late, there were only a few people in the restaurant: an older couple, and a couple of families that looked like they were finishing up.

All of the men were wearing yarmulkes. I was very aware that we were the only Gentiles in the place. It felt strange.

We ordered our sandwiches and I looked around, remembering my friend from Brownies, C. C. was one of my giggling friends. We also both liked to sing. We tried to learn all of the songs from Allan Sherman records and all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, as well. I also was invited to spend sabbath with them on several occasions. I remember being a little in awe of the special prayers and rituals, and worried about that little sip of wine I was supposed to drink. We both liked play-acting, and (I'm embarrassed to admit this now) we would even act out some stories from the New Testament. At 8, I was totally clueless.

It seemed that, for awhile there, I had more Jewish friends than I did friends from my own youth group. In fact, I didn't feel that comfortable with most of the others from my church youth group. But I enjoyed conversations about religion, literature, and philosophy with some of my Jewish friends.

One of my friends, C, called it "Lutheran-Jewish Inter-faith Dialog." We both wanted to be writers, and both of us were really into our faith traditions. She taught me a table prayer in Hebrew that I remember to this day, and helped me learn about some of the Jewish Holidays as well. One of the things I respected most about her was that she was vulnerable enough to ask me, one day, "Do you think because I am not a Christian that I am going to hell?" And I had a sneaking suspicion that my religion officially held this position, but I myself had a hard time believing it.

As we waited for our pastrami sandwiches, the elderly couple in the booth next to ours struggled to leave. The gentleman turned to us with a twinkle in his eye, and said, "You have to wait longer if you aren't Jewish." My husband laughed and said, "How could you tell?"

One of the things I miss, being a pastor, is getting to know people who are not like me. It seems that I spend most of my time talking with other Lutherans. They're nice (mostly), but I realize that my most significant, most illuminated, and sometimes most challenging times were times when I was the stranger, learning another language, tasting other flavors: living in Japan, being invited to Sabbath meals, all those "Lutheran-Jewish interfaith Dialogues."

When have you tasted other flavors, or felt like a stranger?


Jennifer said...

Oh, Diane, I so agree with you about the chance to be with people who believe differently! I am changed for the better by every encounter I have with our Muslim friends through our interfaith partnerships.

Presbyterian Gal said...

I have always felt like a stranger in my human experience.

How was the pastrami sandwich? That sounds good.

Diane said...

I've felt like a stranger more than I'd like to think...

The Pastrami sandwich was excellent.

Rev SS said...

Like PG, I always feel like a stranger ... and the most enjoyable times were ministry in LA with diverse populations and cultures ... including dialog among "children of Abraham"

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I've never thought about that particular disadvantage of being clergy.

I'm glad you found that restaurant and I hope you find some unexpected interfaith experiences.

Lindy said...

I know what you mean. Yet, services this Rosh Hashana felt so comfortable to me, like home. I wonder if any of us is really so very different.

Barbara B. said...

Sounds like a great deli! And I agree -- it's important to make time to be around "people who are not like me".

Eigon said...

I used to live in London, close to Southall - which is the Indian equivalent of Golders Green for the Jewish community! We once had an American friend over to visit, and she wasn't interested in any of the usual tourist attractions - Tower of London, Windsor Castle etc - what she loved more than anything else were the fabrics she could buy from the stalls on Southall High Street.
We were once in a shop in Southall when we realised that our faces were the only white ones we could see - and it did make me wonder how Indian and black people feel most of the time, when they are the only point of colour in a sea of white faces.

Anonymous said...

Most of my friends growing up belonged to other faiths. I think learning about other belief systems helps us see our own in perspective.