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Thursday, November 23, 2006

My most memorable thanksgiving meal was one I didn't eat

Many years ago when our daughter Ariella was perhaps just two and Gilad was a newborn, our extended family was scheduled to converge on the family compound (my parent's house in Westport) for a traditional  New England Thanksgiving dinner. 

For many years my mom & dad had been hosting the turkey-day feast... and out of gracious concern for our dietary restrictions (Zahava and I are the only ones in the extended family who keep kosher) they had always prepared the entire meal according to the strictest interpretation of the laws.  They were able to do this because, in addition to their own very nice (but treif) kitchenware, they also kept two complete sets of kosher dishes, pots & pans and utensils on hand for those occasions when we stopped by.

Yes, my parent's are truly special people.

So, for several thanksgivings the entire family (grandparents, parents kids, grandkids and various invited friends) had gathered at my parent's house and enjoyed a delicious - and completely kosher - thanksgiving dinner.

However this one thanksgiving about which I'm writing was to be a bit out of the ordinary.

I had unwittingly accepted a date to play a gig with my band on Thanksgiving out on Long Island somewhere, and Zahava and baby Gilad were both in bed with some sort of bug.  It was arranged that Ariella would go to be with the rest of the family at my parent's house, but because she was such a picky eater we told everyone to assume she would not be eating.

However, we found out after-wards that my parents had gone ahead and prepared a completely kosher thanksgiving... from the first appetizers to the last slice of pecan pie!

We were absolutely astounded. 

Not one person at that Thanksgiving table kept kosher in their daily lives... yet, on the off chance (an extremely long shot, I assure you) that this finicky little two-year-old girl might ask to taste a sliver of turkey or a bite of pie, they had all agreed that the entire repast would be kosher... served on kosher dishes... and eaten with kosher utensils.

I could bring countless examples of how my siblings and parents have gone to similar lengths to accommodate our religious lifestyle out of a combined sense of duty and love, but this thanksgiving memory is the one that stands out most clearly in my mind as a reason to count my blessings. 

I am so thankful that I have a family so ready and willing to recognize the distinction between making personal choices for ones-self, and creating common ground where everyone can feel included and welcome.

The memory of that long-ago thanksgiving - a meal Zahava and I didn't even attend - is like a well-banked bed of embers that continuously warms my soul. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Posted by David Bogner on November 23, 2006 | Permalink


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Beautiful story, and it reminds me of my mother, may she rest in peace, who insisted on kashering the kitchen when I started to keep the mitzvot in high school. I had friends in the same boat who had to eat off of paper plates for years before going off to university, but my mother wanted me to be able to eat with the family at all times. (although there were innocent mistakes made out of ignorance that I had to deal with tactfully).

Posted by: westbankmama | Nov 23, 2006 11:08:04 AM

Do you still celebrate Thanksgiving now that you're in Israel? If so, happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Fern | Nov 23, 2006 11:15:24 AM

westbankmama... Such "innocent mistakes made out of ignorance " were also overlooked by us. IMHO, the biblical commandment to 'honor one's mother and father' trumps the mostly Rabbinical laws that were inadvertently broken out of inexperience with keeping kosher. I know more than a few people who have cut themselves off from their families after becoming religious because of issues related to kosher food. I find these choices to be baffling.

Fern... Yes, we still celebrate and thank you for the good wishes. The only compromise we make is to push it off until Friday as Thursday is a work day here. We ordered a nice big fresh turkey from the butcher and are looking forward to having my parents for thanksgiving at our house for a change. I hope your thanksgiving is enjoyable.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 23, 2006 11:45:07 AM

Wow. As someone with almost no frum relatives I just want to say that you have no idea how lucky you are.

In many families the choice often comes down to a) you host, b) they host and graciously do not take offense that you bring your own food, or c) they get insulted when you offer to bring your own food so you stay home.

Money quote 1: What?! It's not like I'm serving ham! It's a turkey! Turkeys are kosher!"

Money quote 2: "My house isn't kosher enough for you?! My Rabbi eats here!

Posted by: wogo | Nov 23, 2006 12:41:58 PM

Wogo: BELIEVE me we appreciate our good fortune in being blessed with such understanding family!

Trep and his three siblings truly resemble the four points on a compass in terms of how different they are from one another, and the various lifestyles they all lead. One of my in-laws most inspiring virtues (IMHO) is their ability to cherish and celebrate each of their kids (and respective families) for their particular and unique qualities! They derive such pleasure from each of their kids successes, and choices, and in so doing, inspire me to be a better parent by appreciating my kids' individual strengths (rather than wondering why one kid "gets" certain things, while another might not....).

Posted by: zahava | Nov 23, 2006 1:03:04 PM

A beautiful story. You are lucky to have such tactful parents.

Posted by: Isabelle | Nov 23, 2006 1:45:13 PM

Zahava: that was beautifully put. I aspire to that level as a parent, and it is refreshing to see you and David are grateful and appreciative. That, too, is an example for your kids. Kol ha-kavod.

Posted by: Ezer Knegdo | Nov 23, 2006 3:39:30 PM

oy i loved this blog!!!...my oldest became religious when he was twelve...personally a traditionalist...sorta closely related to flexidox!!!i had a kosher kitchen...four sets of dishes/pots/pans/etc...the other two sets being pessach...i never wanted to have to turn anyone away from my table...but to tell you the truth...sometimes i really think that G-d comes into my kitchen when He needs a laugh...happy thanksgiving...the more i read the more i love your family...stay safe

Posted by: marallyn | Nov 23, 2006 5:14:55 PM

I think Thanksgiving is awesome. If/when I ever make aliyah, I'm going to try to make Thanksgiving as popular by the American Jews as Sigd is by the Ethiopian Jews and Mimuna is by the Moroccan Jews. Hodu lahashem ki tov! :)

Posted by: Alan | Nov 23, 2006 5:51:31 PM

I always enjoy this blog! Especially I enjoyed this story about respecting everyone's traditions, even when it may not be convenient to do so! You have absolutely wonderful parents! :)



Posted by: Thailand Gal | Nov 23, 2006 6:43:59 PM

agree with all the lovely comments. What is IMHO?

Posted by: savta yaffa | Nov 23, 2006 7:14:45 PM

IMHO=In My Humble Opinion

Posted by: zahava | Nov 23, 2006 8:24:35 PM

I don't know of anyone religious who's cut themselves off from their non-kosher-keeping families because of food, but I know of one family who refused to allow their kosher-keeping kid to eat kosher in their home. Eat treif or don't eat, was the reaction. You can imagine where that's gone.

It goes both ways.

Your parents sound like lovely people--I'm glad your kids will be seeing more of them.

Posted by: uberimma | Nov 23, 2006 8:56:48 PM

I wish I had your parents....mine stopped eating with us (and get this--WE were doing the cooking) as soon as they found out we were keeping kosher--we'd actually been keeping kosher for a couple of years, they'd been to our house to eat for Thanksgiving, and we pointed out that nothing had changed -- but they wouldn't hear of eating with us either at our house (kosher) or at theirs (bring our own food). When I begged my mother to eat with us for Thanksgiving, she said the only way she would celebrate with us is if we took her out to a (non-kosher) restaurant. My husband's and son's kippot "embarassed" them. You are SO blessed to have your parents!

Posted by: aliyah06 | Nov 23, 2006 9:03:10 PM

Treppenwitz: beautiful post. Ashreikha, ashreikhem.

Uberimma: You're absolutely right. It definitely goes both ways.

Posted by: Rahel | Nov 23, 2006 9:23:52 PM

Nice post, David. And I appreciate you overlooking 'things done out of ignorance', like the night you came to pick up Ari & Gilad after they had had dinner at my place, where I had made sure that they had kosher chicken nuggets... and you asked very gently if that was milk in their glasses and just shrugged when I said yes... I never did THAT again! :)

Posted by: val | Nov 23, 2006 10:57:57 PM

Beautiful story. Your parents and siblings seem very special; you are so fortunate and blessed. Happy Thanksgiving! Shabbat Shalom!

Posted by: Essie | Nov 24, 2006 1:31:52 AM

Wow! What a great family. You are truly blessed. Hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving.

Posted by: Tim | Nov 24, 2006 2:29:13 AM

One more reason for us to adore your parents. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family David.

Posted by: jg | Nov 24, 2006 5:36:40 AM

That sounds absolutely wonderful! It's not often that you hear of such closeness and understanding in the family!

Posted by: Irina | Nov 24, 2006 7:05:01 AM

Judging from what's going on in my village - and in my family! - many of us will have to draw on David's parents' example as our children not only grow up to be Israelis, but also take different paths than us in Judaism.

Lotta that happening in our neck of Yesha - in both directions, Jewishly.

You truly are blessed - we never had heavy issues, but I still remember my grandfather trying to bribe the band at our wedding into playing a set of ballroom dances...

Posted by: Ben-David | Nov 24, 2006 2:31:43 PM

I can relate - I read this a day after we had Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws. Same story - they're Conservative, and do keep some aspects of kashrut, but not l'halacha. When we get together, my wife does a lot of the cooking & supervises the rest, and it's never an issue. In fact, I remember when my oldest was three, and he was playing with an electronic toy on Shabbos. My father-in-law, who drove that day, turned to him and snapped, "Put that down - it's muktzah!" I'm very fortunate to have in-laws who are so supportive of us, even if they don't agree with our lifestyle. A lot of frum in-laws could learn a lot from them.

Posted by: Psachya | Nov 24, 2006 10:30:14 PM

Wow. You, and your family, are very special.

Posted by: Lisa | Nov 24, 2006 10:32:25 PM

I do not keep kosher but when I studied in Israel for 2 years back in 1965 and stayed with a Persian Jewish family that kept strictly kosher, out of respect, I did not eat anything non-kosher when I was out of their home.

Posted by: bernie | Nov 25, 2006 6:10:44 AM

And still no Photo Friday. Here I sit sweating, got to get my fix and look...bubkis. Oy vey.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 26, 2006 6:42:12 AM

Adorable parents. Like that picture of them from your other blog about them going to Israel. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Seattle | Nov 26, 2006 6:54:34 AM

I remember a Thanksgiving in Israel, years ago. While I didn't formally celebrate Thanksgiving, I had a sudden craving for something turkey-based. So I went into town and looked for my favorite shwarma stand. He wasn't there! So I wandered around looking for something turkey (I couldn't afford to go to the upscale hotels catering to Americans). I must have looked pathetic, because a kind man came up to me, asked me why I was so "down," and offered to help me find some turkey. We rode all around the area (very few cars there then) with NO success. He finally put me on the bus back to my home with a hope that next year I would be more successful. It worked! TR

Posted by: tova riva | Nov 26, 2006 12:44:27 PM

Wow. I, too, have relatives who do not keep Kosher. However, unfortunately we do not receive the same consideration you are describing. We usually end up bringing our own food, and even the few times that an effort has been made to accommodate us, it is usually made half-heartedly, and without following the directions that we were asked for (kosher food heated uncovered in an unkosher oven or in unkosher utensils, a separate buffet of pathetic offerings that make my kids look longingly at the "real meal"). We actually have always been met by resentment for our strange ways.

You are truly lucky to have such an unbelievable family.

Posted by: orthomom | Nov 26, 2006 5:29:37 PM

What a tremendous bracha, and very uplifting to read about! As someone witnessing an ever-widening chasm causing tremendous heartache bewteen religious and non-religious relatives, I can doubly appreciate this post. In fact, I may print it out to show the parties in question...may make them rethink some of their intractability...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Nov 28, 2006 8:10:39 AM

heart warming.

Posted by: weese | Nov 28, 2006 7:24:51 PM

Thankfully, my grandparents (Conservative) keep Kosher, and we are able to eat there without a problem. But you reminded me of a story that happened to me in Israel: I was schmoozing with a guy who worked in the internet cafe on the 3rd floor of the Tachana Merkazit in Jerusalem. He was engaged, and was telling me how he and his fiance kept 3 sets of dishes: Milchig, fleishig, and treif. He kept kosher, she did not. I was both impressed and saddened...

Posted by: Ezzie | Nov 29, 2006 12:57:00 AM

nice story.

my mother-in-law is not herself observant but she has kept a kosher kitchen for many years from the the time that my wife and sister became religious.

on the other hand i have a childhood friend whose path toward observance was greatly complicated by his (israeli hiloni) parents who made it very difficult for him.

shavu'ah tov

Posted by: ari kinsberg | Dec 3, 2006 6:49:29 AM

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