If there was ever a time for Diaspora Jews to consider making aliya to Israel,
this is the time. I’m not talking about the economy, security or weather.
Rather, how many more three-day holidays are overseas yidden willing to endure?
Anyone with even a smattering of Jewish literacy knows that, except for Rosh
Hashanah, the commanded two-day holidays are only one day in Israel. Without
going into too much detail, suffice it to say that I’m only now digesting the
last of the teiglach, kneidlach, kugel and gefilte fish we consumed in
Even more distressing, my semi-annual hygienist appointment at
the end of October was a tad more complex because of brisket morsels that were
stubbornly lodged in gum-pockets of my otherwise pristine mouth.
be a result of my iron-clad religiosity, but I’ve always tried to remain
vigilant against any wee stirrings of schadenfreude, taking no pleasure in the
discomforts and bad fortunes of others.
And still, when I heard the
moaning/ complaints of my overseas children, mother, siblings, friends about the
endless KP duty and inability to focus on their prayers because of overwhelming
food concerns, I admit I felt a little bit self-righteous.
however, the playing field has been leveled to my satisfaction with the overlap
of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
After all, for a religious American
transplant to Jerusalem, its a little difficult to justify serving a sumptuous
New Englandstyle feast on a Thursday night when Shabbos arrives 24 hours
In the past, I’d defer to the Georgian calendar and typically host
a cultural hybrid called “Thanksgiving Shabbos.” Replete with the commanded
kiddush over wine and challah, my banquet continued with turkey, cranberry
sauce, pumpkin pie, acorn squash and apple crumble.
But this year, we’re
laying out a Thanksgiving spread on the same night as the rest of the
Yankee-Doodle world! TURKEY IS considered a specialty item in the local super
and one must order it well in advance of the holiday. Weeks ago my supermarket
butcher, Assam, began pressuring me to make sure my family wouldn’t face
disappointment. He knows all about our carnivorous habits, including my South
African husband’s love of fricassee, and our newest passion: home-made
beef-biltong, perfect for safaris and other jungle sports.
weird happened when I went to pick up my bird. Much to my shock and horror, I
began sobbing. Well, not sobbing exactly. Weeping. Sort of.
lay, encased in glass, and I was suddenly taken back to a time when visited
libraries, diners, classrooms, homes and haberdasheries that were festooned in
the colors of autumn; ears of dried Indian-corn hung from entrance doorways and
tables groaned under the weight of gourd-andpine cone centerpieces.
behooves one to know that there are, indeed, some places in Israel where one can
gather pretty fallen leaves with colors so vibrant that they evoke memories of
homework assignments from early childhood that entailed pasting leaves from
oaks, poplars and maple trees into a speckled notebook.) The holiday season
always proved tricky for me and my afternoon Hebrew school classmates because,
whether we tried or not, Christmas wasn’t ours.
“And you enjoy your
holiday!” was the prevailing refrain, unless, magnanimously, a shopkeeper might
ecumenically add, “Merry Ha-Nu-Ka to you!” And despite the good-natured smile
and sincerity behind the words, we instinctively knew that Christmas is for
But Thanksgiving had always proved to be a magnificent annual
pit-stop, resonating with brotherhood. It mattered little whether your ancestors
arrived via the Mexican border, Ellis Island, on a Cuban fishing boat or aboard
the Mayflower. We – all of us – were included.
Indeed, the supermarket
check-out girl named Megan or Theresa bade everyone “Happy Thanksgiving!”
Feeling wistful, I recall that it had always been my assignment provide dessert
for Thanksgiving supper at my mother’s home.
Baked apple patisseries with
lattice-work crusts, pecan tarts and cranberry bread were favorites; pumpkin pie
was a little outre for my yeshiva kids, which meant that Mom and I usually
polished it off while cleaning up the kitchen.
Twenty years after my last
States-side Thanksgiving, I bemoan not having a fireplace.
difficult to impart memories of roaring fires and sipping hot, spiked cider with
cinnamon sticks. Wistfully, I can remember a veil of sleep descending as we
struggled to remain awake enough to watch 16 mm black-and-white family
My cousins and I would laugh until we wept, someone inevitably
screaming, “Stop the film! I need the bathroom!” The only pause in levity came
when those loved ones that were long dead appeared on screen, captured for
eternity on fading celluloid.
It makes me happy to know that this year,
along with latkes, dreidle spinning and the lighting of the menorah, I’ll be
able to share with my children and grandchildren stories of what it felt like to
be a school girl in New York City more than 50 years ago.
regale my guests by sharing the fun of Thanksgiving Friendship Day in PS 63 when
4th grade teacher Mrs. Kowalski instructed us to bring in our favorite holiday
foods to share with our classmates.
Debbie Marcotrigiano served
meat-and-mozzarella lasagna alongside my mother’s matzoh-ball chicken soup and
Meadow Takahisa’s horse-meat sashimi.
I am proud of the decision I made
to live in the land of our forefathers – the ones who came before the Pilgrims –
but there are times, still, that I wish for someone to hold my hand and validate
a history of red, white and blue ethics that defined the woman I would
And while it might be sad that I cannot reserve a
Carvel Gobble-Gobble cake, this is a disappointment I’ll just have to live
This article is courtesy of the Orange County Jewish Life Magazine.