Dear Dad,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain you and your community have endured this past week. At 9:30 AM last Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Jewish community was ripped of their people, their safety, their identity. My heart breaks for you, your friends, your ancestors, your faith.

You and Mom raised us Catholic, so I never learned Hebrew in Sunday school, fasted for passover, or had a Bar Mitzvah. But you knew this. You knew it was up to you to share your Jewish Heritage with my brothers and I. And you did. You shared it through food.

Whether it was an early morning soccer game or piano recital, you always made time for Sunday brunch. You took us to our local delicatessen, Ben and Irv's. You sat us in the bright-lit corner booth, sometimes a table, and asked about our day. We discussed school, sports, brain teasers, mathematics, and nonsense. It became our tradition.

I remember my first bowl of matzo ball soup. Be careful, it's hot, you had said. Aidan and I would ignore your warning and burn our tongues on the rich broth (We always save the matzo ball for last). We’d admire how the white matzo would float to the top, like clouds in a golden sky. You’d then tell us how your mother used to make matzo ball soup when you had a cold. How nothing could compare to your mother’s matzo ball soup. You’d talk about your grandmother, Bubbe, like she was at the table with us. We'd ask about your childhood: Bar Mitzvahs, Hebrew school, playing baseball at sleep-away camp, Sunday dinners with your parents.

You’d order the Challah French toast for Aidan—the fish platter for you and I. You’d pick up a warm sesame bagel from the basket and spread a thin layer of cream cheese on it. Look. You’d then lift a perfectly square piece of sweet muenster from the plate and lay it on the bagel like a blanket, followed by plump pieces of lox and a glistening slice of tomato. Try it, you’d insist. Hesitant, I opened my little mouth and took a bite. It was pure magic—I’d never tasted anything like it before. A marriage of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy. The textures and flavors bounced off my tongue and warmed my stomach. 

Here, finish it.

I did.

And for sixteen years, I have finished my bagels and lox. I have enjoyed every bite, crumb, nosh, nibble, laugh and story shared at our Sunday morning breakfasts.

I know you're hurting, Dad. But I want to thank you. Thank you for rising against the stereotypes, slurs, discrimination, and hateful acts that have polluted our country. Thank you for sharing with my brothers and I a part of your heritage. Thank you for using food to help me understand what American Judaism is about—respect, peace, devotion to family, and love. That it's about memories shared, and food passed. These values will remain with me forever, and I will do my best to teach them to others as lovingly, patiently, and respectfully as you taught them to me. 

Thank you for sharing your bagels and lox.

Your son,