Posted on March 1, 2015
Marlene Wedner, an only child, was also the only Jewish kid growing up in the small Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania town of Bridgeville. When a classmate made a negative comment about her being Jewish, her reply was, “I don’t think you understand what being Jewish is” – and she’d go on to explain it. Her parents owned the only butcher and grocery store in town, and sent their daughter to a religious school on Sundays at a synagogue in the city – yet Marlene doesn’t recall either parent being especially observant. By the time she was 14 her family sold their businesses and moved to the city. For the first time, she was surrounded by many Jewish families.
While in high school, Marlene was active in a social club and then in college was in Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at both Pennsylvania State University where she went for two years and University of Pittsburgh “Pitt.” With Penn State more than three hours away from home, and at the urging of her mom, she finished her degree at Pitt. Her mom would say, “If you stay far away you’ll meet someone, get married, and settle down somewhere other than here.” Funny thing is, Marlene did date, fall in love with, and marry a Pitt State student, though he was someone she knew in high school that lived right around the block from her family. Yet that local boy and Marlene ended up never living in Pittsburgh and soon lived in many places as Mort entered the Air Force. Marlene says adding to the irony is that the men she did date from out of town ended up settling down in Pittsburgh. Rest assured, Marlene and her husband did visit her parents (and his) often.
Morton, fondly known by many longtime Temple Beth David Members as “Mort” will always be the love of Marlene’s life. Of the 43 years Marlene has been a temple member, 33 of those were by Mort’s side with both very active in the temple leadership until he passed away. Together they created a beautiful life including two precious daughters. Cheryl worked as the Human Resources Director for Hyatt Palm Springs and now oversees projects for an upscale club. Leslie is a speech pathologist.
In the early years of their marriage, the Wedners were stationed for a bit in California, then in Alaska for 2 ½ years – where Marlene says her connection to Judaism really began thanks to an active synagogue. She also fondly recalls teaching 3rd grade at the Air Force base for military kids and her second year at a city school where many students were Eskimo and Indian. Next they were stationed in Kokomo, Indiana. By then Mort was an Air Force Captain and they had their first child which led to his deciding to leave the military and they moved to Los Angeles, CA to settle down. There Mort opened an insurance business, they had their second child, and Marlene took a break from teaching (until the children were older) to stay home and raise the family. She later substitute taught in Huntington Beach, Westminster, and Ocean View school districts and then for eight years, given her love of travel, was a travel agent in an office where she and Mort were part owners.
Most of her travel these days is alongside her two children and granddaughter (who is graduating with honors from Berkeley this year with a political science degree). Trips to South America and Spain are on Marlene’s bucket list. She is also in a book club, a movie group, and a temple Chavurah. She likes to walk, do aerobics, and editor’s note: dresses impeccably. She’s very active at temple serving on the Sisterhood Board and recently rejoined the temple Membership Committee. A temple highlight was in the mid-70’s, when she had a B’nai Mitzvah alongside Max Sudakow, Faye Newman, and others. It’s no surprise when she thinks of Temple Beth David the word “community” comes quickly to mind. From being the only Jewish child in a small town to being surrounded by Jewish friends – especially after the loss of her forever love, this is what she values most. We are blessed that the spirit of Mort (who was pivotal in helping raise the $350k to build the sanctuary) and the ongoing commitment of Marlene help make our temple what it is…a very special family tree.