And my head went wobble wobble…

I was 17. I’d been living in Jerusalem for about 2 months, and my best friend was an American who had made aliyah with her family and was in the same program at Hebrew U. Her father was a retired orthodox rabbi, her mother an English teacher.

The last Thursday of November was approaching, and my friend asked me if I would like to join them for Thanksgiving. I was shocked. Stunned into silence. Thanksgiving? What? But, you’re Jewish! Orthodox even! Your father is a rabbi!

That was the first time this Irish girl learned that Thanksgiving is an American secular holiday, and not a religious holiday. Growing up outside of the US, it was a holiday we saw on TV, in the movies, but not something that we learned about. We spent very little time on American history, so the pilgrims and the Indians sitting down to eat turkey and pumpkin pie together found no room in our school books. When I told my parents that I was celebrating Thanksgiving their reaction was similar to mine.

I celebrated Thanksgiving with this family for the 7 years I lived in Israel. Then I married an American. And we lived in London. For 3 years on the last Thursday of each November my in-laws would call and ask “what are your Thanksgiving plans?” And for 3 years we told them “We’re going to work…”

Then we moved to Boca. I admit, that first year I was excited about Thanksgiving. Finally I would have a proper Thanksgiving in America! I was disappointed.

On the one hand, for many it is an excuse to get together with family for a big meal, especially orthodox families who can’t always be together for Jewish holidays because of distance. On the other hand, do we really need an excuse to get together like that? Should we not make the effort without Thanksgiving?

On the one hand, it’s a reason to make a festive meal, with lots of great sides (and turkey, although I’m not a fan). On the other hand, we make festive meals weekly for Shabbat and for the Jewish holidays throughout the year.

On the one hand, it’s a day where we can be thankful for so many things – our families, our friends, our job, the roof over our heads etc. On the other hand, do we (Jews) not start each and every day thanking God for simply being alive?
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This year I am hosting the Thanksgiving meal at my house. It’s just the 5 of us plus Keith’s grandparents and a cousin from Aventura. Less people than sat around my table last Shabbat.

It’s been 10 years in the US and I’m still conflicted. I have no family traditions to bring to this holiday. No childhood memories of big stuffed turkeys. No notion really of what is Thanksgiving food and what is not. I made an apple pie, but not a pumpkin pie. I made brownies and I made a cranberry-apple crunch. We are not having sweet potatoes, and I didn’t make green bean casserole. I may have married the only American who truly does not care whether he celebrates Thanksgiving or not. He just wants to play football and watch football. And I’m thankful for that!

Let this holiday be about giving thanks. Let us say thank you for all the things in our lives – for the blessings, and for the stuff that we are challenged with. Forget about the meal, don’t make it the priority. Enjoy the day with whomever you choose to spend it with. I look around and I am thankful for so much – for my husband, for my children, for my parents. For my husband’s grandparents, may they be with us for many, many more Thanksgivings. For the many years I merited to have my own grandparents (z”l) with me. For the friends that I have all over the world. For the gorgeous weather we have in Florida most Thanksgivings. Each and every day I am thankful for all of this, but it’s not a bad thing to pick a day and make that day about giving thanks for our good fortune.

Happy Turkey Day and Shabbat Shalom!

PS: Today & Tomorrow only (Thursday & Friday) is $5 shipping at my webstore!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lance jason
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 16:49:10

    your blog confuses me, its thanksgiving, and the blessing of living in this country,
    as opposes to others, where would you want to be south america? europe?
    israel where you would be a starving american with nothig to do but wonder why and the hell you made aliya in the first place, thank god were here and have this holiday. and this country..

    Reply

    • vanessabrooksceo
      Nov 24, 2011 @ 17:08:34

      I made aliyah at 17. I met and fell in love with an American, which is how I wound up here, via the UK. I’m not discounting Thanksgiving, just saying that it’s a holiday that doesn’t have an awful lot of meaning to me. I am thankful daily for many things, as I mentioned in my post. I don’t have a need for a special day for this. Yes it is nice to have a day to spend with family without it being a religious holiday, but I am blessed to spend a lot of time with my family. I’m not sure I get why you are attacking my opinion? As for being a starving American in Israel, unlikely, as I’m Irish.

      Reply

  2. Brother Barry
    Nov 24, 2011 @ 18:31:01

    I note you are not thankful for your siblings 🙂

    Reply

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