Those of you who know anything about Welles know that besides being our greatest film director, he also had a great affection for Jewish people, Jewish culture, Jewish history (he was one of the narrators of the documentary Genocide) — and Jewish deli. It was not an accident that Charles Foster Kane’s most trusted associate was named Bernstein. (This writer called that association a political act. And read filmmaker Henry Jaglom’s take on Welles’s philo-Semitism here.)
My former COMMENTARY colleague Abe Greenwald posted this symposium on the occasion of what would have been Welles’s 100th birthday. (Of course, it still is his 100th birthday, in that he was born 100 years ago, but it sort of doesn’t count, given that he’s dead.)
The symposium focused on a subject of great moment: the state of Jewish delicatessen. Among those invited to contribute an opinion was Welles himself.
A friend gave me Ruth Glazer’s article on Jewish delicatessen to read. It was an unfriendly and cruel thing to do: I am on a reducing diet.
We get a good deal of Jewish delicatessen in Hollywood. Without pastrami sandwiches there could be no picture-making. And I understand there is a project afoot to pipe the borsht across the continent from Lindy’s.
My view on Jewish delicatessen in general is that it is far too good for the goyim, and the Jews are fools not to keep it to themselves. I hasten to add that I have had myself declared an honorary member of the Jewish community, though born a goy.
Before I started to reduce, I daresay I was as good an authority on pastrami and lox as any man in the country. I have not been honored, however, as was Clark Gable, by recognition in the Bronx, where I understand Gerson’s Appetizer Store carried the slogan:
“Bagel’s back, and Gerson’s got ’em.”
While I am a native New Yorker whose life has been greatly enriched by Jewish storytelling and, no surprise, Jewish humor, and whose mother once considered converting to Judaism (my old COMMENTARY boss, John Podhoretz, used to kid me about how I was probably a descendant of conversos on my mother’s side), I am ashamed to say that I have never had a pastrami sandwich.
Put that on the bucket list.