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miss sitting on
and I know it's
ridiculous to think
that a Jewish
miss anything at all
about the Yuletide
KI RS BAUM
season, but let me
As a struggling
bond trader in Chicago 15 years ago,
I shared a desk with Denny, 10 years
my senior chronologically, but 25
years my senior in stability.
Denny, an Irish-Catholic, was a
broker, married with three high
school-aged boys and a home in the
I was a Jewish, single, full-time
trader and part-time bartender, living
in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment
in the city. He was a little bit coun-
try; I was a little bit rock and roll.
We got to know each other during
fast-food lunches, on slow trading
days and while sharing newspapers.
We found a common thread in read-
ing spy thrillers, watching violent
movies and laughing — a lot.
One erev"Christmas, he asked me
what I was doing for the holiday.
I told him I'd probably stay home
and watch the tube.
He invited me to his house and
kept insisting, even though he knew I
was Jewish, no one should be alone
on Christmas Eve.
"Just come over to the house, and
you'll meet my family," he said.
"We'll have some good food and
Heinekens, and you'll have a great
I didn't want to go, but reluctantly,
I said I'd drop by.
I wasn't that Jewish, but I wasn't
When I got home and found my
car wouldn't start, I called him with
the perfect excuse. He had the perfect
"Take the train until the end of the
line, and we'll pick you up," he said.
"Pack an overnight bag."
I stopped at the store for a bottle of
wine and rented a Steven Seagal
At the party, I walked into a
Norman Rockwell painting — a large
all-American family. It was a painting
that included Heinekens.
I grabbed some dinner and a beer
and made myself comfortable on the
steps leading into his living room.
Denny joined me, and as we sat
there I met everyone in the room. We
stayed up late, and I fell asleep in a
The next morning, I woke up to
the sound of his wife's new Dirt
During breakfast, we watched the
video. They insisted I stay until the
presents were opened, and I was more
than surprised when some presents
— 10 paperbacks, individually
wrapped — had my name on them.
When they drove me home that
day, I knew that I had made a life-
Until I moved away eight years ago,
I had spent every Christmas Eve on
those living room steps and every
Christmas morning exchanging pres-
ents and watching videos — the
bloodier the better — before they
went to church.
What he did for me a dozen years
ago was a mitzvah, and I hope he
knows that if he ever finds himself
alone on the first night of Passover,
he is welcome to break some matzah
with me. No one should be alone
during the first seder.
Religious doctrine aside, Christmas
and Chanukah share the themes of
miracles, of peace, of love for family.
We believe the world's problems
can be solved a little bit at a time.
We believe love for your fellow
man can reach across borders and
religions, as long as you take the time
to see similarities instead of differ-
We want peace, health and happi-
ness, and a good life for those we
We also want Osama bin Laden's
head on a stick.
Harry Kirsbaum's e-mail address is
Originally published online December