On March 3, I lost a friend. So did hundreds of other people. Many were closer. But Rabbi Martin Weiner (z”l) will always hold a place in my heart.

Carolyn and I met Marty in 1985 when we joined Congregation Sherith Israel. Seth, then nine, entered religious school. Yosi and Aaron followed. Every Sunday morning—rain or shine—Marty stood outside the synagogue to welcome every kid. 

Before their b’nai mitzvah, Marty took each child down to Fillmore Street for a doughnut and a talk. My kids and hundreds of others remember their doughnut walk.

When Seth went to Washington High School, he played jayvee basketball. The coach refused to excuse Tuesday evening absences for religious high school. Marty, who played at Washington (he claimed size, not skill) adjusted Seth’s schedule for the season. 

During one High Holy Days service, Marty asked worshippers to dedicate themselves to attending one Friday-night service a month. Carolyn and I had been Friday-night regulars at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, so I did. Soon, I was attending every Friday night. That has continued for decades.

The consummate pastor, Marty visited the house after the deaths of Carolyn’s father and, several years later, mother. He could have called. They were not Jewish. But Marty’s style was deeply personal. 

I became more involved at Sherith Israel and often worked with Marty, who retained an old-school formality. One day, he said, “Call me Rabbi in public but in private, Marty.” The relationship enabled me to write articles for the old newsletter and become active in adult education. I lead Torah Study from time to time and recruited Marty for the few Saturday mornings left before his retirement in June 2003.

Marty was honored by a retirement dinner at a downtown hotel. In addition to speeches, a video offered comments from family, colleagues and friends. Marty asked me to conduct a number of those interviews. The video needed a script and editing. He asked me to do that. And since a narrator hadn’t been provided for, I did that, too.

In thanks, Marty and Karen took Carolyn and me to lunch downtown. He also gave me a Torah translation and commentary by the remarkable scholar Richard Elliott Friedman. I’m reading it during this current Torah cycle—the fifth or sixth time.

I’m vain enough to say that Marty supported my writing. He reviewed portions of God’s Others, offered valuable comments and blurbed the cover. He read all my novels. 

Over the past years, we met for coffee every few months. Marty started reading an early draft of my upcoming novel, Lola Flores, and continually asked for more chapters. Each get-together, he’d pose question after question about the novel’s protagonist, the plot’s twists and turns, and how I researched the historical elements. Later, I updated him on changes made in subsequent drafts.

I wish I possessed Marty’s incredible skill of asking other people questions and getting them to talk. He did share details of his own life, particularly about movies and classes he was taking, but his focus always remained on the person he was with. Remarkable.

Pirke Avot (Wisdom of the Fathers) 1:6 cites Rabbi Joshua ben Perachiah: “Find yourself a teacher. Get yourself a friend.” I found both in Marty Weiner. I miss him.

Enjoy a great and timely read with my novel 2084. Order in softcover or e-book from or your favorite bookstore.

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  1. Ellen Newman on March 11, 2022 at 10:43 am

    David, thanks for this lovely remembrance of Marty. He was amazingly helpful when my dad died, finding a rabbi in LA for us and visiting with us after we got home. When prepping for Ben’s bar mitzvah, I was amazed to watch how personal Marty was when we were in in office, and then how he switched on a dime to his public self once we were in the hallway. It was a gift, among so many others.

    • David Perlstein on March 11, 2022 at 10:57 am

      Thanks for sharing that, Ellen.

  2. Tracy on March 11, 2022 at 11:52 am

    He was an amazing man who had the power to inspire greatness in others. A true mensch.

    May his memory always be for a blessing.

    thanks David.

    • David Perlstein on March 11, 2022 at 12:18 pm

      Indeed, Tracy.

  3. Jan Maisel on March 11, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    A lovely tribute, David! Even though I live in Marin, I joined Sherith Israel around 1990 primarily because of him, and have never regretted that decision. I was in the final adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah group he presided over. After his retirement, whenever I attended services, I would find myself scanning the sanctuary for him, and if I saw him, there was always a tiny burst of happiness at seeing him, even though I wasn’t always able to get to him to chat. Entering the sanctuary now will be a different experience…..

    • David Perlstein on March 11, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      We all feel a major loss, Jan. Continuing to worship and study represents a great way to uphold Marty’s memory.

  4. Valerie Jahan on March 12, 2022 at 9:05 am

    Lovely remembrance of a great man. Thank you.

    • David Perlstein on March 12, 2022 at 10:19 am

      Thanks, Val.

  5. Steve Weiner on March 12, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    Thank you David for your heartfelt remembrance of my brother.

    • David Perlstein on March 12, 2022 at 12:06 pm

      You are most welcome, Steve. And heartfelt it was.

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