How to destroy your Thanksgiving dinner


One of the more obnoxious things I’ve read this year is a piece in Vox titled, “How to Survive Your Family’s Thanksgiving Arguments,” complete with a handy guide to help you turn a warm family gathering into a political food fight.

Never mind that you can have these political arguments all year long, or watch them any time on a cable news channel. No, the folks at Vox are encouraging you to have this food fight… at Thanksgiving.

This is media narcissism at its most advanced. Because the political junkies at Vox make their living from this stuff, they can’t imagine there’d be some human value in taking a break from the circus of current events.

Even the White House has gotten into the act of trying to politicize America’s day of meaning.

“As people are sitting around the Thanksgiving table…” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I hope that’s a question that will be raised, and asked by members around the table—that if we’re going to have a serious discussion in this country about national security, let’s talk about some pretty obvious things that Congress can do.”

Vox actually provides a list of argument topics, such as Donald Trump, Syria and ISIS, Benghazi, Black Lives Matter, and, of course, Bernie Sanders, while offering suggested comebacks for different arguments.

If someone at the table says, for example, “Trump is the only one who’s speaking the truth about immigration,” or “This is why we can’t let in Syrian refugees,” or “Obama and Hillary Clinton’s incompetence got four Americans killed. They have blood on their hands,” Vox gives you all the talking points you’ll need to shame your uncle from Maine.

Beautiful. Can someone please pass the stuffing?

Not all conversation is created equal. I’ve learned that lesson over the years on Friday nights, when we host family dinners in honor of the Jewish Sabbath, usually with guests. The good guests will tell uplifting and funny stories; the not-so-good guests will go on about some terrorist act that just happened or a politician they hate or some other crummy thing now happening in the world. It’s not that those crummy things are untrue or unimportant; it’s just that they have a way of putting a damper on a warm gathering.

Last Friday night at my home, in the middle of a wonderful Shabbat dinner with a large group, the Paris massacre came up. For about 10 minutes or so, a pall came over the table. What was there to say? What was there to add? That the massacre was really evil and disgusting? Of course it was. Thank God my daughter Mia rescued the moment with an improvised riff on how darkness may make more noise, but light has more power.

We are drowning in dark news and political fights. We have so few opportunities to reconnect as families and people in a human way, to learn more about one another, about our lives and the things that mean the most to us. As much as I care about the latest explosion of violence in the Middle East or the Presidential debates, should that really take precedence over stories that can inspire us and deepen our connections?

Here’s the point: Political discussions tend to get circular, impersonal and, ultimately, quite boring. Usually, it’s not about exchanging enlightening information, but about each side proving to the other that it is right. Because you’re not sharing anything personal, there’s little risk involved. But how meaningful is it? Doesn’t it feel like a waste to squander our annual family gathering arguing about ISIS, the Palestinians or Benghazi?

So, here’s my suggestion: When you gather at your Thanksgiving table today, forget Donald Trump. Forget Syria. Forget Hillary. Look around the table and ask people simple questions that might elicit inspiring words, such as: “What’s a great thing that happened to you this past year? What’s a great story that moved you—in a book or a movie or in real life? Did you learn something important that you’d like to share?”

If the answers come back with Donald Trump, then I can’t help you.

Happy conversation.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

November 29: The Jewish Thanksgiving Day


For several years now, I have been campaigning to declare Nov. 29 as the Jewish Thanksgiving Day, a day to give thanks to Lady History and to the many heroic players who stood behind the historic United Nations vote on Nov. 29, 1947, an event that has changed so dramatically the physical, spiritual and political life of every Jew of our time. 

I have argued that Jewish communities in every major city in the United States should invite the consuls general of the 33 countries that voted yes on that fateful day to thank them publicly for their fellow leaders who listened to their consciences and, defying the pressures of the time, voted to grant the Jewish nation what other nations take for granted — a state of its own. 

Imagine 33 flags hanging from The Jewish Federation building, 33 bands representing their respective countries, and the word “yes” repeated in 33 languages in a staged re-enactment of that miraculous and fateful vote in 1947.

The idea came to partial fruition in 2012, when a marvelous production of “The Vote” took place in the Gindi Auditorium at American Jewish University, featuring clergy, speakers, actors, musicians, singers and dancers commemorating the day when, 65 years earlier, the United Nations voted 33-13 to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. 

Efforts to turn this into an annual event nationwide have so far not borne fruit, perhaps because we have become overly fragmented, or perhaps because we need time to digest our debt to history to appreciate the impact that such a ceremony would have on strengthening the spines of our children and grandchildren.

But I am not one to be deterred by hesitation.

I will celebrate this day by myself, if necessary, and if you care to join me, it would make the celebration so much more meaningful.

Let us give thanks to the 33 countries that voted yes on the spectacular turn that Jewish history took in November 1947, and for the dignity, pride and self-image that every Jewish soul has enjoyed since.

Let us give thanks to Eddie Jacobson, President Harry S. Truman’s friend and former business partner from Kansas City, Mo., who risked that friendship and wrote to Truman on Oct. 3, 1947: “Harry, my people need help, and I am appealing to you to help them.” 

Let us give thanks to Albert Einstein, who pleaded, albeit unsuccessfully, with Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India, to vote for “the august scale of justice.”

Let us thank Cardinal Francis Spellman, head of the Catholic Church in New York City, who, days before the vote, used his personal influence in Latin American countries, urging them to vote yes.

Let us thank the many ordinary yet courageous people, from Peru to the Philippines, who understood the collective responsibility that history bestowed upon them in 1947, and used everything in their power — from personal pleading to arm twisting — to influence their governments to vote yes.

Let us thank 33 ethnic communities in Los Angeles and remind them that we Jews do not forget friends who stood with us on the side of justice — we give thanks and ask for nothing in return.

And while we thank history for its miracles, let us remind ourselves and others of a few basic facts.

• Let us remind the world that Israel is there by historical right, not by force, nor by favor.

• Let us remind the U.N. what kind of institution it once was. And let us do it this month, when, in Orwellian mockery, Sudan and Iran win UNESCO leadership roles.

• Let us refresh our memories with all the arguments, pro and con, regarding the idea of a Jewish state; arguments that our enemies have mastered to perfection, and that we have naively assumed to be no longer necessary, to the point of delinquent forgetfulness.

• Let us express ceremonially what we have tacitly understood for quite some time: that Israel constitutes the only uniting force among world Jewry, without which collective Jewish identity would cease to exist.

• Finally, let us remind the Arab world that the U.N. voted for two states, not for a Jewish state only, as their spokesmen claim, and that the optiontion of Palestinian statehood is still on the table, waiting for them to internalize the meaning of the word “coexistence” and to learn to utter the words:

“equally legitimate and equally indigenous.”

It is hard to end this celebration of a Jewish thanksgiving day without reflecting on the tragedy of the Palestinian people and on how they must view the U.N. vote and the missed opportunity for independence. 

Anyone who studied the difficulties Israel faced in its first decade of existence understands that she would not have survived had the Arab leadership accepted the U.N. partition plan. 

A society of one million Arabs and 600,000 Jews sharing a state that the former vows to destroy (assisted by a hostile and sovereign neighbor) has zero chance of survival.

Why then didn’t the Arabs accept the U.N. partition plan?

The main reason was that the Arab leadership was too deeply invested in an ideology that it could not easily disavow. To accept the U.N. plan would have meant accepting the historical legitimacy of a Jewish homeland, hence the Zionist narrative, which they had fought for almost half a century. It would have meant betraying the anthem of their collective identity and admitting to waging an unjust war.

Nov. 29 reminds all of us that it’s time for a new anthem.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.


Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (

Why does Judaism care about gratitude?


While Jews were able to enjoy the rare, simultaneous celebration of Thanksgiving and Chanukah this year, Judaism has long been had something in common with the American holiday.

It’s a theme that runs from Torah to Talmud, from Psalms to the siddur (prayer book) and into aspects of everyday life.

It’s gratitude.

Liturgically, there actually is a timely connection between Chanukah and thanksgiving — an additional prayer in the daily “Amidah” that references God’s role in defeating the Seleucids, after which the Jews entered the Temple “to give thanks and praise to Your great name.” But that message of gratitude to God is just one of many examples that pervades Jewish philosophy.

Biblically, there’s the example in Deuteronomy when God commands the Jews, upon entering Israel, to bring the first fruits of the land to the Temple and express gratitude for the Exodus from Egypt and the arrival in the Promised Land.

There are more modern instances, too. As Rabbi Jocee Hudson of Temple Israel of Hollywood recently wrote in the Journal, Jewish tradition holds that upon waking, one should recite the prayer “Modeh Ani,” a prayer that helps “root us in gratitude, offer[ing] us a daily connection between thanksgiving and light.” Upon exiting the bathroom, drinking a cup of water or even snacking on potato chips, tradition holds that a prayer of gratitude and acknowledgment to God is in order. 

The last and final section of the “Shemoneh Esrei” — the climax of each of the three daily prayer services — contains three prayers whose purpose is expressing gratitude to God.

One question in response to Judaism’s lovefest is this: Why does an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God need to hear, “Thank you,” from his creations?

The answer offered by Rabbi Eli Stern, an instructor and the outreach director at LINK, the Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel, an Orthodox synagogue and kollel (place of learning), is that all of these expressions of gratitude aren’t for G-d’s sake.

“Obviously Hashem doesn’t need it,” Stern said. “We need to develop — for ourselves — the character trait of gratitude,” he said.

Rabbi Dov Heller, a licensed marriage and family therapist, calls blessings of thanks the “technology for helping us develop gratitude.”

And for people who have suffered particularly painful lives, so painful that blessings may not simply ease their pain?

Esther Hess, a developmental pediatric psychologist in Los Angeles and the executive director of the Center for the Developing Mind, explains that prayer can help people feel “they are not alone.” She’s seen this firsthand in counseling parents of children who have developmental disorders.

“I think they have a sense that there is a partnership with whatever difficult endeavor they are doing,” Hess said. 

And if God is a partner, as Heller intimated, then He shares in both life’s blessings and life’s curses.

“If you are going to blame God for the bad, also give Him credit for the good,” Heller said. “That can open people up to seeing their pain in a larger context.”

And so, he said, by thanking God for every seemingly little thing — waking up, drinking water — someone who views life in the context of its problems can begin to appreciate its many blessings.

Thanksgivukkah, Emma Lazarus & the Maccabees: Embracing our dual identity


There is something much deeper to “Thanksgivukkah” than sweet potato latkes. It is an opportunity to celebrate the blessing of our dual identity as Americans and Jews.

In 1883, the Jewish-Sephardic-American poet Emma Lazarus was invited to write a poem for a literary auction whose proceeds would go towards building a pedestal for what came to be known as “The Statue of Liberty.” Lazarus’ entry, titled The New Colossus, was eventually (in 1903) inscribed on a bronze tablet inside the Statue of Liberty for all to read. Its message about America, written by a Jew, captures the essence of what it means to be an American Jew:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Recasting the classical Greek Colossus (a representation of the pagan sun god) as “The Mother of Exiles,” Emma Lazarus turned the Statue of Liberty into an American version of a Jewish-Biblical matriarch standing at the door of her home, welcoming all those who yearn for freedom and shelter. No longer interested in the “storied pomp” of ancient empires, this matriarch seeks to house and assist the world’s “tired and poor” who “yearn to breathe free.” Replacing the Greek sun god – the conqueror of the world – Lazarus’ “Mother of Exiles” is now the nurturing and comforting symbol that welcomes newcomers to a new and unique world: the world of American democracy.

It is not by chance that an American Jew of Sephardic background would author a poem invoking the motifs of “exile and homecoming.” Well versed in her people’s long history of exile and persecution, Emma Lazarus fully understood what a privilege it is for Jews to live in the United States, the safe haven where they enjoy the blessings of American democracy. Lazarus expressed this in another powerful poem she wrote titled “1492”:

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”

For Emma Lazarus – an American Jew of Sephardic descent — the “two-faced year” of 1492 held a double-edged irony. In 1492, after a long, bloody and brutal inquisition, the Spanish Jews were forcibly expelled from Spain, “when Spain cast forth with flaming sword the children of the prophets of the Lord.” In that same year – 1492 — Christopher Columbus discovered America (and later, in 1654, the first Jews to come to America were Spanish & Portugese Sephardic Jews, Emma Lazarus’s own direct ancestors).  In this poem, Lazarus also evokes the motif of America as a safe place of refuge – “Ho, all who weary, enter here.” This theme resonated deeply with Emma Lazarus, a descendant of a weary and persecuted Jewish people who found a safe haven of freedom and protection in America. So, too, it should resonate with all American Jews, on Thanksgiving, and every day of our blessed lives in this great country.

Over 2500 years ago, facing persecution and oppression, a small band of freedom fighters overcame all the odds against them and defeated an army much more powerful than them. They stood up to injustice and were willing to fight for the freedom and independence of their people. In his moving description of the story of Judah and the Maccabees, Rabbi J.H. Hertz wrote: “There is nothing finer in the whole history of heroism, or more soul-stirring in the annals of religion, than the account of this handful of Jewish warriors who were prepared to live or die nobly, in order that the light of revealed truth and righteousness be not extinguished in a heathen world.”

The torch of the Maccabees continues to shine brightly today. In Israel – a country founded on the same principles of freedom and democracy as those of America – the modern-day Maccabees of the Israel Defense Forces are taught a powerful ethic during their basic training: Only those who know how to defend their freedom are worthy of it.

The modern State of Israel also serves as a safe haven of freedom and democracy. Much, much smaller than the United States, and lacking an impressive “Lady of Liberty” welcoming new immigrants, the State of Israel has certainly done its lion’s share of absorbing “the tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” From Holocaust survivors and refugees from Arab lands, to the Prisoners of Zion from the former Soviet Union and the Ethiopian Falash Mura, Israel – the tiny Jewish haven of freedom and democracy in the Middle East – has continued to cry out: “Ho, all who weary, enter here!”

American Jews have often felt conflicted by their so-called “dual identity.” On this Thanksgivukkah – a convergence of an American holiday giving thanks for America, and a Jewish holiday celebrating freedom – I have never felt so proud of being an American Jew.


Rabbi Daniel Bouskila is the Director at the Sephardic Educational Center.

‘Thanksgivukkah’? Not quite


It’s taken American Jews a good century to fully absorb the miraculous idea that this country is unlike any other that Jews have experienced. After 2,000 years of feeling insecure no matter where we pitched our tents, the people of Moses finally found safe harbor in the land of Lincoln — the land of freedom, human rights and justice for all.

So maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised to see the Jewish community go head over heels for anything that makes us look and feel American. It’s our Jewish way of saying thank you.

Naturally, when we learned this year that Thanksgiving and Chanukah would fall on the same day — something that’s never happened before — our gratitude went into overdrive and … drumroll … Thanksgivukkah was born!

It’s eerie that this rare Jewish-American holiday meld would coincide with the just-released Pew study of American Jewry, which revealed, among other things, that Jewish identity is melting right into America’s loving embrace. 

Maybe it’s a sign of how intimate that embrace has become that hardly anyone in the Jewish community has uttered a breadcrumb of complaint about the “intermarriage” of these two holidays.

How dare we complain? How dare we show ingratitude on the very day of gratitude?

After all, it would be impolite to do what comedian Stephen Colbert did from his side, when he complained that “Chanukah is screwing up my Thanksgiving.”

For most American Jews, it’s the opposite: Thanksgiving is upgrading our Chanukah. It’s a shidduch made in heaven.

That certainly feels like the polite American response, but is it the proper Jewish one? I don’t think so.

For one thing, the meshing of the holidays makes it harder to appreciate differences. The holiday of Thanksgiving is one of my favorites, not least because it brings families together and puts even grouchy people in a good mood. Who can beat that? 

But Thanksgiving — however beautiful, warm and happy it is — is missing something.

As Rabbi Benjamin Blech notes on Aish.com, there are two instances in the Bible where Jews are commanded to make a blessing of gratitude: after a material experience (eating a meal), and before a spiritual one (learning Torah).

“In biblical terms,” Blech writes, “Thanksgiving is a sequel to the biblically mandated Birkat Ha-mazon, the Grace after Meals in which we express gratitude to the One Above ‘who feeds the world in his goodness with grace, with kindness and with mercy.’ ”

Thanksgiving, however, does not address another kind of gratitude we owe God: “It is the blessing for the spiritual part of our lives … a blessing that alerts us to the hunger of our souls and our yearning to be nourished by the sacred.”

That’s where Chanukah comes in.

As Blech explains, the real meaning of Chanukah is spiritual: “Antiochus was not bothered by the survival of Jews,” he writes. “What he wanted at all costs to prevent was the survival of Judaism. His decrees were against the observance of Torah.”

In other words, the threat “was not to our bodies, but our souls. The danger was not death but disappearance by way of assimilation.”

How appropriate, then, that Chanukah’s main ritual should be based around oil, the one liquid that never “assimilates.” This oil speaks to the singularity of Jewish identity and the unique importance Judaism places on ritual.

It is ritual that leads us, somewhat ironically, to the spiritual.

The Friday night Shabbat meal, for example, would feel empty and generic without our time-honored rituals such as lighting the candles, welcoming the angels, blessing the woman of valor, blessing the children, blessing the wine, washing our hands and then blessing the bread, singing Shabbat songs and reciting the long prayer of thanks after the meal.

This ideal Shabbat meal, in fact, probably comes closest to being “Thanksgivukkah”— a meal that marries the spirituality of Chanukah with the abundance and gratitude of Thanksgiving; a meal that feeds body and soul.

In the Jewish tradition, rituals elevate and add reverence to physical acts and deepen the very expression of gratitude.

As my friend Rabbi David Wolpe told me, maybe the real issue here is that “Thanksgiving is not Jewish enough.” Well, it’s an intriguing thought that Jewish notions such as rituals might enhance the Thanksgiving experience — and why not? It wouldn’t be the first time Jews gave something back to America as an expression of our gratitude.

In any event, as the Chanukah lights glow this year on the great American day of gratitude, Jews will have plenty to be thankful for. Just as our ancestors were grateful for the miracle of the Chanukah oil that lasted eight days, we can be grateful for the miracle of the Jewish oil that has lasted 5,774 years. 

That oil is a metaphor for the duality that challenges American Jewry: How do we engage with an embracing world while staying true to who we are? How do we shine the unique light of Judaism without making it mushy and generic?    

Let’s be grateful that we live in a country that allows us to do all that. 

Happy Thanksgiving … and Happy Chanukah.

Modeh Ani, connecting thanksgiving and light


When people ask me to describe the God I believe in, I often start by using the image of a flame. We are taught that each of us has a divine spark within us. That divine spark at times burns brightly, often in the moments of our lives when we find ourselves in balance and in tune with our spiritual needs. Other times, our flames seem to burn a bit lower. There is much we can do to nurture the flames within us. Like hands cupped around a match on a windy night, when we acknowledge the blessings in our lives, when we take time for reflection or prayer or quiet, and when we notice everything as fundamental as the power of our own breath, our flames grow stronger.

My mother is currently battling stage IV melanoma, and like most families facing serious illness, her experiences have brought much in my life into new focus. The word “quarterly” has taken on new meaning, as each three months now bring new scans and new treatment plans.

My parents are both retired. And yet, as my mom was reflecting on her outlook on life a few weeks ago, she said to me, “Each day I wake your father early, saying ‘Get up, get up.’ When he asks me, ‘Why?’ I say, ‘I want to see the sunrise.’ ” Perhaps, one thing that living scan-to-scan teaches you is that when each moment is so very precious and each new day a radical gift, nurturing one’s divine light is not something that should be put off until tomorrow.

For me, this year’s once in our lifetime intersection between Thanksgiving and Chanukah seems fitting. As the days are growing shorter and the preciousness of life is drawn into sharper focus, a convergence of light and gratitude is exactly what I’ve been seeking.

One of our sacred tasks during Chanukah is pirsum hanes, or to publicize the miracle. This mitzvah to share our light is why we place our chanukiyot, our Chanukah menorahs, in our windows. These days are times when we are invited to share our light.

It seems to me that a lit up window is as apt a place for gratitude as a Thanksgiving table is for light.

Jewish tradition teaches us that we are to begin each morning with the most basic of prayers, “Modeh Ani,” I am grateful. These words, which root us in gratitude, offer us a daily connection between thanksgiving and light. They are also intentionally offered in the first person singular: I am grateful. In difficult times or in moments of joy, the utterance is the same.

P’sikta D’Rav Kahanah provides a beautiful commentary on Psalm 57:9, which declares, “I will awaken the dawn.” The midrash explains, “I will awaken the dawn: that is, ‘I will awaken the dawn, the dawn will not wake me’” (P’sikta D’Rav Kahanah, Piska 7:4). And so, whether we jump to see the sunrise or enjoy our few extra moments of rest, the spiritual orientation remains the same. Each day we have a choice: Either to greet the day with gratitude or to allow the moment to pass.

This year, with our historic pairing of Chanukah and Thanksgiving, we are given a powerful reminder: Gratitude nurtures our inner spark and our inner spark grows our gratitude. All we have to do is cup our hands and nurture the flame.


Rabbi Jocee Hudson is rabbi educator at Temple Israel of Hollywood.

Giving thanks to the 20th century Maccabees on Chanukah


Thanksgiving is the great American holiday, a secular fete originally celebrating the crops we harvested, now celebrating not just the harvest, but also our freedom, our democracy and our way of life. Because of the oddities of the Hebrew calendar, Jews will be celebrating a second holiday on Thanksgiving, as Chanukah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day this year. We call Chanukah the Festival of Light, because of the candle that stayed lit for a week with only one day’s supply of oil. The real story of Chanukah, however, is a celebration of a military victory when the Maccabees defeated the enemies who wanted to Hellenize Judaism. Thousands of years later, Jews in America now celebrate in the wake of another military defeat, one that changed the face of Judaism for the modern world.

In an age in which Jews can be both proud and free Americans, openly celebrating a Jewish holiday as we also celebrate Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for our 20th century Maccabees who won a stunning victory in the 1967 war. The perception of Jews in America, and, indeed, our own self-perception, was permanently changed after that war. Instead of the meek, browbeaten Jews who went to their deaths without much of a fight, Jews were now mighty warriors who defeated all their neighbors in just six days. As the public’s perception of American Jews changed, discrimination dwindled. According to Pew’s latest study, the majority of Jewish Americans say there is no discrimination against Jews in America today. My estimate is that it was the 1967 war that was the turning point, after which anti-Semitism in America began to fade to the point where it is no longer a significant force in American life. At the time, it seemed that overnight nearly all Americans, not just American Jews, were pro-Israel and pro-Semitic. Had the Maccabees not won, then or now, Judaism — as we know it — would have been imperiled.

Jews hold such a secure place at the American table that no one makes anything of it. Jews are now successful in nearly every field. American Jews, when we sit down at our Thanksgiving repasts, have much to give thanks for, and should give great thanks to Israel. It is Israel that fought against tremendous odds to win its War of Independence in 1948, just as American troops did centuries ago, and brought forth a democracy, the greatest form of government in the world, then and now. Israel has a vibrant democracy, arguably less dysfunctional than ours seems right now. No longer the military underdog, the country deserves praise for the safety it has offered Jews around the world. At great a personal sacrifice of its citizens, Israel has built a formidable department of defense, and the American people and government have always backed Israel in this endeavor. This strength has enabled Israel to protect Jews who live around the world, some in small communities, where sometimes despotic leaders are aware of Israel’s vow to protect Jews the world over, and have behaved accordingly.

I am old enough to have lived through both these periods. Prior to 1967, many Jews in America worried about being accused of double loyalty and increasing anti-Semitism. After the Six-Day War, American Jews became proud of Israel, and, in turn, proud of themselves. In my long life as both a Canadian and an American, I have had very few anti-Semitic embarrassments, but there was a marked difference between how my non-Jewish colleagues treated me before and after the Six-Day War. It is thanks in large part to Yitzhak Rabin and the Israel Defense Forces that I can stand tall as a Jew.

As we Jews celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving in tandem this year, let us thank our both our forefathers who came to this country and made it possible for us to thrive and the Israelis who have protected that. 


Edgar M. Bronfman is the former CEO of the Seagram Company, president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and the author of “The Bronfman Haggadah” (Rizzoli).

On heroes and gratitude: A real Thansgivukkah message


It has a clever, catchy name.  It will allegedly occur once every 78,000 years.  It has inspired dozens of fusion recipes like sweet potato latkes with cranberry applesauce.  It has even inspired a Hanukkiah or menorah in the shape of a turkey,  a “menurkey.”  It is the perfect blending of two of your favorite holidays….It’s Thanksgivvukah.  Next week  we will  celebrate the fortunate overlapping of these two holidays—lighting the 2nd candle as we ate our fill. 

Let’s not forget that at its core, both holidays give us an opportunity to express our gratitude for the abundance in our lives.  And while there are many important themes connected to Hanukkah, the festival of lights, one that really sticks out, is the idea that that the holiday is about heroes.

Our Beverly Hills community as well as the music community at large lost a true hero last week.  Joel Pressman, a teacher of mine, lost his valiant battle with cancer.  Joel, Mr. Pressman, or Mr. P was a consummate teacher.  He was THAT teacher to literally thousands.  The one you remember, the one who left an indelible mark on your life.  He wasn’t always easy.  He had a big personality and wasn’t afraid to share his opinions or judgments. 

In the last few months before he died, Mr. P became more and more public about his condition- with many video posts on Facebook.  And what became clear was that this teacher’s teacher would continue to teach us all up until his dying day.

“I’m not afraid of death.  That’s the easy part” he said. “It’s dying that is really hard.”

In his dying months, he gave us all a gift.  Rather than retreat into anonymity, he became more and more public.  Even hosting a “Day in the Park with Joel” where literally hundreds lined up to say goodbye and to let him know just how much he meant to them.

That, I believe, was the most profound blessing (if there is a blessing in all of this) of his illness and passing.  He got to know first-hand, just how significant he was to so many people.  He got to hear, feel and truly understand just how loved he was. Most people don’t get that opportunity.  We usually talk about people only after they are gone.

How did he do this?  By sharing his one powerful and simple message.  Love.  Just love.  Nothing else.

He told us all he loved us, and in so doing, encouraged us to tell him how we felt about him.  He even inspired me to pick up the phone and tell several other important mentors in my life just how important they are to me. 

At this time of year, just a few days before Thanksgivukkah, I encourage you to put real meaning behind this conflated holiday.  Seek out an old mentor or teacher –one of your unsung heroes.  Express gratitude for  changing your life.  In so doing, you just might change theirs.


Yonah Kliger is the senior cantor at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills–tebh.org.  @cantoryonah

Eight chefs’ new Chanukah delights, one for each night


This year, Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide: Chanukah is celebrated for eight days by candle-lighting, gift exchanges and eating foods fried in oil, an ancient custom, commemorating a miraculous event at the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Thanksgiving meal reminds us of our American heritage. Both offer a special time to reflect on our traditions and enjoy a family meal. 

Of course, the favorite Chanukah food is latkes, most often made from grated potatoes and served with sour cream, preserves or applesauce.

This year I decided to interview some well-known chefs and restaurateurs for some new and different ideas. The result was more than I bargained for. I never dreamed there could be so many sensational new recipes, and an added bonus was the delicious new sauces these food experts provided to serve with the latkes.  

I am featuring eight chefs and their recipes, one for each night of the holiday. Our family is also celebrating Thanksgiving a day early, on the first night of Chanukah, since our family is traveling from Northern California as well as Washington and Oregon to be together for this special celebration.     

Michel Richard, who was the chef/owner of Citrus while in Los Angeles, has just opened his new bakery, Pomme Palais, and restaurant, Villard Michel Richard, at the Palace Hotel in New York. Always looking for ways to reduce the use of butter and cream, he developed wafer-thin, super-crisp Oven-Fried Potato Latkes, which have absolutely no resemblance to the old-fashioned, heavier and more caloric ones. They are also a perfect dish to serve with your Thanksgiving turkey meal.

Bruce Marder, the innovative chef of Capo and the Brentwood Restaurant in West L.A., came up with Two-Tone Potato Latkes, made without eggs, which he serves with salmon caviar to celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving . 

Chef Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant, Barbuto, in New York City’s West Village section, serves Italian-inspired cuisine. Several years ago he shared this Red Pepper and Corn Latkes recipe, served with a creamy corn sauce, which has become a staple for our Chanukah menu.   

Michel Ohayon, chef/owner of  Koutoubia in West L.A., offers another substantial main course for Chanukah: Moroccan Ground Beef and Potato Latkes, which he suggests should be served with harissa, a spicy-hot chili pepper sauce that can be found in most Middle Eastern markets.

When your guests arrive, offer them a large bowl filled with thin home-fried potato chips that our foodie friend, home cook Luigi (Lou) Liuzzi created. It is one of his many innovative food experiments that we continue to enjoy.

Chef Brett Swartzman is a chef with passion. Originally a native of Chicago, he is creating his second Chanukah celebration at the Brentwood Country Club.  They love his Potato Latkes With Granny Smith Applesauce, and this year he is going to surprise them with Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).  

Chef Robert Bell, owner-chef of Chez Melange and Mama Terano, both in the South Bay, prepared an unusual potato latke recipe on my TV show “Judy’s Kitchen” many years ago. Thinly sliced russet potatoes are arranged in layers in a skillet to resemble the pedals of a flower, then baked in olive oil until crisp. It’s always a tasty dish to serve during the holiday. 

Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica, serves his family’s traditional potato latkes, using a special French cheese. This is a recipe that his French grandmother, Simone, prepared for Chanukah, and she always served it with fig compote.

With these eight exciting latke recipes, it is a perfect time to plan a festive latke party for your family and friends. Keep the menu simple — after all, the latkes are the real stars, and a hearty soup or salad may be the only addition needed. If your latkes are served for dessert, invite guests to drop in after dinner for latkes, tea and coffee.

Preparation can be made easy by using your food processor or blender, and remember, many batters may be made in advance, then fried at the last moment. In planning your Chanukah party, don’t forget to include the traditional songs, the custom of giving Chanukah gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) to the children and exchanging small gifts.


MICHEL RICHARD’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES 

1 pound (about 4 medium) potatoes, peeled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and diced cucumbers

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cut the potatoes into long, thin strips, about 1/8-inch wide, by hand or using your food processor’s julienne or shredder blade. Place potato strips in a bowl of water to cover. Before cooking, drain potatoes, then dry well in a lettuce spinner or with a clean kitchen towel. 

Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes and stir-fry until tender, about five minutes. Turn the potatoes out onto a baking sheet and push the strips together to form a rectangle or triangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Roll using a rolling pin to flatten further.  

Oil a large baking sheet. Cut into the flattened potatoes by pressing down on a fluted cookie cutter, creating 2 1/2- to 3-inch rounds.  Using a spatula, transfer the latkes to the prepared baking sheet. (This can be done in advance.) 

Before baking, season potatoes with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp and brown on both sides, about 30 minutes, turning the latkes halfway through. Transfer them to a serving platter, using a metal spatula. Serve with sour cream and diced cucumbers. 

Makes about 8 servings


BRUCE MARDER’S TWO-TONE POTATO LATKES

1 large russet potato, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
Salmon caviar

Julienne potatoes lengthwise into long matchsticks, either with a knife, food processor with julienne attachment or mandoline.  Place in large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

In a cast iron skillet or on a griddle, heat olive oil. Shape potato mixture to form pancakes about 2 inches in diameter. Fry on one side until brown, then, using a metal spatula, carefully turn and flatten with the back of the spatula and brown on the other side.

Place latkes on heated plates and serve immediately with salmon caviar.

Makes about 12 latkes.


JONATHAN WAXMAN’S RED PEPPER AND CORN LATKES

Creamy Corn Sauce (recipe follows)
1 red bell pepper
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Salmon caviar (optional)

Prepare Creamy Corn Sauce; set aside.

Roast red pepper in a 375 F oven for 40 minutes, turning once.  Skin will puff and brown. Peel off the skin, remove the stem, and discard seeds. Puree in blender or food processor. 

In a large bowl, combine the red pepper puree, egg yolks, milk and corn kernels; mix well. Blend in the flour. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into red pepper mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

In nonstick or heavy skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil.  For each latke, spoon 2 tablespoons batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all batter has been used, adding more oil to skillet as needed to keep latkes from sticking 

Serve with Creamy Corn Sauce and top with salmon caviar, if desired.  

Makes about 24 latkes.    


CREAMY CORN SAUCE

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute corn kernels until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute diced red bell pepper until tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat vegetable broth and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Add sauteed corn and bell pepper.  Blend in cream and simmer until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in chives. Serve warm.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


MICHEL OHAYON’S MOROCCAN GROUND BEEF AND POTATO LATKES

2 pounds potatoes
Oil for frying
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon each minced fresh parsley and fresh cilantro
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch mace (optional)
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 egg
Harissa

In a pot, boil potatoes for 45 minutes; peel and mash. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and saute diced onion until soft.  Add to potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Cool.

In a skillet, brown ground beef, minced onion, parsley, cilantro, nutmeg, mace and saffron, until no juice remains. Cool mixture and transfer to a food processor. 

Using the knife blade of a food processor, blend meat mixture with egg. 

Using a heaping tablespoon of mashed potato mixture, place in palm of hand and place a teaspoon of ground beef mixture in center. Roll potato mixture around meat mixture.  Flatten between the palms of your hands.       

Fry in oil in nonstick skillet, or deep-fry until brown and crisp. (These can be prepared in advance and warmed in the oven, or served cold. ) Serve with harissa.  

Makes about 10 latkes.    


LUIGI’S POTATO CHIPS

4 russet potatoes
3 to 4 cups olive, peanut or canola oil for frying
1 tablespoon salt

Peel the potatoes and slice them very thin using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Places the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water. Pour oil into fryer or large pot and heat to 375 F.

Dry the potato slices between two clean kitchen towels and place some into the not oil. Do not overload.

Fry for five minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the chips to a large cookie sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt onto the chips. Continue in batches until all the chips are cooked. Place the chips carefully into serving bowl — do not dump them from cookie sheet, as you do not want pour the excess salt from the sheet into the bowl. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


BRETT SWARTZMAN’S SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Place 2 1/2 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, margarine, nutmeg and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a No. 4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. 

Makes about 24 doughnuts.


ROBERT BELL’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Brush a nonstick skillet with a small amount of olive oil and arrange the potato slices in a ring, overlapping until the entire surface is covered. Pour a thin stream of olive oil over the potato slices until completed coated (use most of the 8 tablespoons). Repeat with another layer, brush with remaining olive oil, and fry on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. Using a metal spatula, transfer potatoes to a cutting board and cut into triangles. Repeat with the remaining potato slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


JOSIAH CITRIN’S POTATO AND TOMME REBALAISE CHEESE LATKES

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and grated
1/2 pound Tomme Rabelais, grated (Salers or a firm Tomme de Savoie can be substituted)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Olive oil for frying

Place small batches of grated potatoes in the center of dishtowels, and wring excess liquid from the potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and repeat the process with the remaining potatoes. Add the onion, cheese, egg, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well to combine.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet (cast iron works best). Add the potato mixture by 1/4-cupfuls to the hot oil. Lightly flatten with a spoon, and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the latkes over and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat process until all of the potato mixture is used. Serve warm.  

Makes about 24 latkes.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her Web site is JudyZeidler.com.

Stuffed: Thanksgiving on Hope Street


Last Sunday, my job was to make stuffing for 400 people. I said I’d do it because there’s a part of me that prefers to forget that it’s been 25 years since I was a caterer, and I assumed it would be as easy now as it was then.

Every year for the past nine years, Nashuva, the spiritual community led by my wife, Rabbi Naomi Levy, hosts a Thanksgiving meal at Hope Street Family Center downtown. Hope Street provides childcare, counseling and other social services to thousands of at-risk families. About 100 Nashuva volunteers from the Westside, the Valley and Silver Lake provide a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, along with arts-and-crafts projects for the children and care packages to take home. 

So, on the prior Thursday evening, I went to Costco and bought 20 pounds of onions and 15 pounds each of carrots and celery. I filled my car with enough croutons to stuff a twin-sized mattress. At home, I reached far into our storage closet to find the industrial-sized pot I last used to photograph our infant son in, with his head poking over the rim. He’s 20 now.

Things started simply enough. I chopped the vegetables, sautéed them over two burners in two quarts of canola oil, added seasoning and broth. The kitchen smelled good, like Thanksgiving.

I tossed the croutons with some chopped chestnuts, then portioned it all out in large foil banquet pans. I ladled the hot broth over the croutons and began to mix. I used a big spatula, and the boiling-hot stuffing lifted up and — onto my hands. I screamed. The glutinous mass attached the heat to my skin like culinary napalm. I jumped away — and the whole tray tumbled onto the floor, splattered my ankles. I screamed again. I lurched for the sink, my feet slid in a mound of stuffing, and down I went.

I lay on the floor, burned, bruised. My dogs wandered in to lick the turkey dressing off my wrists, like jackals on the battlefield.

Eventually, I cleaned up, cut my losses and assembled the remaining pans. On Sunday morning, I cooked them, and by lunch they were beside the turkeys in the buffet line, just like I’d planned it.

Hundreds of moms, dads and kids came to the center at Hope Street, just south of Pico, that day. People sat down with their food and began to eat. Tania Benacerraf, director of the family preservation program at Hope Street, spoke about all the things the organization does, day in and day out, to help people raise their children in health and safety. 

Over the years, as Nashuva and Hope Street collaborated on many projects, I’ve listened to the stories — of women escaping abuse; of fathers overcoming addiction; of people working two, or even three jobs to make a life for their children. I’m a very lucky person to be able to complain about my mishaps making stuffing. 

We ate together at long tables in a large function room. On a patio outside, the children created spin-art and decorated picture frames. 

Around this time of year, countless Americans stand where I stood that day: helping to serve Thanksgiving dinners in a homeless shelter, a halfway house or a soup kitchen, doing something small, even symbolic, to share this country’s enormous bounty with those less fortunate.

Nashuva’s Thanksgiving meals with Hope Street have spawned deeper ties between the two organizations. But there can be no pretending that by serving turkey and gravy we are somehow righting deep systemic wrongs. The morning after we volunteered, Congress is still debating a Farm Bill that plans to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a program so many of the hard-working moms and dads at Hope Street depend upon to feed their kids and help lift their families out of poverty. The morning after, Washington, D.C., is still treating the right to decent health care as a political game, rather than a national priority. The morning after, these people are still struggling, and I have a funny anecdote about stuffing.

But while the debates in D.C. all seem to diminish us as a nation, shared moments can still lift us up. We reach out to help some others, and they are kind enough to accept our need to help. 

Perhaps we need to help because we know from experience that ours is a nation of enormous, almost unbelievable wealth. We have seen with our own eyes that we waste more food than those we serve can ever eat. We have been in private homes larger than all of Hope Street. We need to serve because something needs to change.

Just as the families of Hope Street were settling into the meal, my wife stood and offered a blessing in English, as Julie Drucker, a Nashuva member and organizer of the event together with Carol Taubman, translated Naomi’s prayer into Spanish.

“Sometimes life can be very difficult,” Naomi said. “And we struggle to make a living and take care of our families. Thanksgiving is a time to take hope in the future and to know that together we can help each other to make a better life. And we take a moment to give thanks to God for our lives, for our friends, for the gift of community and for being together here today.”

Amen — and Happy Thanksgiving.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Time to shop for Thanksgivukkah


Now that the parade of Jewish holidays has passed, it’s time to start planning for the impending arrival of an unprecedented hybrid: “Thanksgivukah” is coming! 

This year, the first day — and the second night — of Chanukah falls on Nov. 28, which also happens to be Thanksgiving. This particular coincidence, according to one calculation, won’t happen again for some 77,000 years, and some American Jews are pretty excited. 

“I’ve been thinking about it for so long,” said Dana Gitell, who first noticed this curiosity on her calendar about a year ago and has created a line of T-shirts and greeting cards to celebrate the holiday. “My kids can’t wait. They think everybody celebrates Thanksgivukah.”

Gitell, who lives in a suburb of Boston and works in marketing, loves imagining “mashups” of the two holidays — turkeys with latkes, pilgrims and rabbis, dreidel balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgivukah Day Parade. 

The hybrid holiday — which Gitell has chosen to spell with a double-K  “Thanksgivukkah” and holds two trademarks on the usage of that name — offers a chance to celebrate both Jewish and American values, she said. Her cards and T-shirts — designed by Los Angeles-based illustrator Kim DeMarco — use icons of both holidays, and in the spirit of the season, 10 percent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to MAZON, the Jewish anti-hunger nonprofit. 

Thanksgiving always falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and the next time American Jews will light Chanukah candles at Thanksgiving will be in 2070, when the first night of the festival begins at sundown on Nov. 27. That overlap hasn’t happened since 1918 — although in both 1945 and 1956, Jews in Texas and other states still celebrating “Republican Thanksgiving” on the last Thursday of November may have marked the combined holidays. 

Regardless, because the Jewish lunar calendar is slowly falling out of sync with the solar calendar — with Jewish holidays moving forward through the seasons at a rate of four days every 1,000 years — Chanukah has slowly but surely been moving deeper into winter and away from Thanksgiving.

This year, however, Chanukah begins at sundown on Wednesday, Nov. 27, which means that the entire day of Thanksgiving overlaps with the Jewish holiday. So on Thursday night — sometime during the first quarter of the Steelers-Ravens game, for those on the West Coast — families can fire up two candles in their menorahs, plus the shamash, of course. 

To do so, they may well use a “menurkey” — a ceramic menorah in the shape of a turkey, the brainchild of Asher Weintraub, 9. Asher and his father, Anthony, funded the $25,000 project through a Kickstarter campaign that concluded in early September. 

Then there’s the food — ideas for hybrids like sweet potato latkes and cranberry sauce-filled doughnuts abound. 

“Manischewitz broth is the official broth of Thanksgivukah,” said Courtney Manders, who works with Manischewitz as an account executive at The Bender Group, a public relations firm in New Jersey. The 125-year-old manufacturer known for its matzah and gefilte fish makes a full line of beef, chicken and vegetable broths, Manders said, and last year introduced a new broth — turkey. “That works out perfectly for a lot of Thanksgivukah dishes,” Manders said. 

Manischewitz tapped kosher chef Jamie Geller to come up with some appropriately hybridized dishes and is sponsoring a “mash-up recipe contest” starting in October to identify other culinary ways to celebrate Thanksgivukah. The company also launched an online contest to make a short video about Thanksgivukah, which so far has drawn a handful of ideas, including one titled “Close Encounters of the Thanksgivukah Kind.” The best video wins a prize of $6,000, second place gets $3,000, and videos must be submitted by Oct. 10 to be eligible. (No pilgrims, Native Americans or non-kosher animals, the online brief says — and don’t mention Manischewitz wine, because “that is actually a separate company.”) 

Like all things Chanukah-related, there’s a healthy dose of consumerism involved in this holiday. One listing on eBay describes a box of 12 Shabbat candles in “autumnal shades of Yellow, Orange, Green and Purple” as being ideal “for a peaceful Sabbath at ‘Thanksgivukah’ or throughout the year.” Another seller is hawking a plastic dreidel filled with kosher candy corn as a “Thanksgivukah Special.”

Deborah Gitell — sister-in-law of the Thanksgivukah greeting cards and T-shirts creator — is planning a Thanksgivukkah Festival for Nov. 29, to be hosted by Craig Taubman’s Pico Union Project in Los Angeles. 

She’s trying to raise $18,000 through the crowd-funding site Jewcer to make the festival happen, and said some musical acts — including the Moshav Band and Beit T’Shuvah Band — have already confirmed their participation. The Canter’s Deli food truck and Shmaltz Brewing Co. are also on board; proceeds from the event will support Pico Union’s theater programs and MAZON. 

Thanksgivukah’s attraction lies, for the most part, in its rarity.

“If the Jewish calendar is never modified in any way … [the first day of] Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, Nov. 28, in the year 79811,” Jonathan Mizrahi, who holds a doctorate in physics and works for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote in a blog post in January of this year. 

Sure, Mizrahi notes, the Jewish calendar is likely to be modified long before then, since Passover must be in the spring. If the Jewish calendar were to be allowed to fall out of sync with the seasons and loop all the way around — Rosh Hashanah in July, anyone? — Chanukah and Thanksgiving would meet again in 76695, when the eighth day of Chanukah coincides with the autumnal American festival. 

“In all honesty, though, all of these dates are unfathomably far in the future,” Mizrahi writes, “which was really the point.”

Dana Gitell’s T-shirts — available for sale at ModernTribe.com ($36) — play up that aspect. 

“Our design is inspired by the logo for Woodstock,” Dana Gitell said of the T-shirts, and compared Thanksgivukah to another relatively recent, once-in-history moment. 

“It’s a bit like Y2K,” she said. “You were there, you lived through it, and it’ll never happen again.”

For a Thanksgiving seder, it’s all about the ‘hodu’


Sitting down to the well-set table every November, even though it is filled with family and food, I always feel that something is missing — a Jewish connection to the Thanksgiving story.

A dinner without the drama of the Exodus, like the Passover seder, leaves me just with the turkey to send my spirits soaring.

It’s not that I need another haggadah — I already know why this night is different: the stuffing isn’t made of matzah meal. But what about borrowing the idea of the seder’s four cups of wine — the Tu b'Shvat seder does this, as well — to help organize the evening in a Jewish way?

Liking the idea of repeating an action four times but wanting a change from raising a glass, I played thematically with four feathers, four fall leaves, even sticking four olives — so American, yet a fruit of Israel, too — on my fingers.

For inspiration I turned to William Bradford, a passenger on the Mayflower and later the governor of Plymouth colony, who as it turned out was a figure who could bridge the gap between Puritan and Jewish narratives.

In “Of Plymouth Plantation,” his journal of the Pilgrims, Bradford made comparative references between the Pilgrims’ voyage and the Israelites' Exodus. Later in life, according to Stephen O’Neill, the curator of Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth Mass., Bradford “taught himself Hebrew,” even writing a book of Hebrew exercises.

According to Bradford’s journal, the Mayflower Pilgrims gave thanks upon their landing: “Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean,” reads the text.

“Let them therfore praise ye Lord, because he is good,” wrote Bradford, quoting from Psalm 107, which in Hebrew begins with the word “hodu,” “give thanks.” Here was my repeating element.

Saying hodu, or thanks, four times in my Thanksgiving seder would work, and in a fortuitous Hebrew play on words, hodu also happens to mean “turkey.”

First hodu: Begin your Thanksgiving seder with a blessing over a glass of wine or juice. Though historians think the Pilgrims probably drank water at the first Thanksgiving, they were not teetotalers — they later produced a hard cider, even a watered-down version for children.

Then say a Shehecheyanu. During their first year in the New World, slightly more than half of the Mayflower’s 102 passengers survived. Sitting together around the table and saying this blessing — especially in a year when nature has made it painfully clear how fragile life can be — reminds us that God grants us life, sustains us and enables us to reach this day.

Since the first Thanksgiving followed the corn harvest, the hamotzi blessing is in order. Break some bread — at this seder you don’t even need to dip it once. Say a hodu for a cornucopia of blessings.

Second hodu: In 1621, Edward Winslow wrote a letter to a friend in England describing the first Thanksgiving meal shared by the Pilgrims with the Indians: “Our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.”

Adding to the menu, we find in Winslow’s account that to help feed the assemblage, including 90 from the Wampanoag tribe and “their greatest king Massasoit,” the Native Americans “went out and killed five deer.”

At your table, ever thankful that someone else has done the “fowling,” and that you haven’t hit a deer with your car, somebody should hold up the turkey (or Tofurky) platter and thank the “greatest” cook.

To add a sense of family tradition to the meal, also hold up the other dishes, acknowledging what the guest households — the tribes — have contributed to the meal. One should ask, from whom was the recipe passed down?

For tables with children in elementary school, it's also a good time for show and tell. One should ask, from what did you make that lovely centerpiece? Go ahead and kvell.

Say a hodu of recognition and dig in to your Thanksgiving meal.

Third hodu: Before dessert, talk about the perilous journey of the Pilgrims toward religious freedom from England to Holland and finally to Plymouth. Each person at the table can introduce the story of their own family about coming to America; one should tell of the going out.

Say a hodu of freedom and feel free to indulge in pie.

Fourth hodu: Last year, having a guitar-playing guest at our Thanksgiving dinner really gave us a chance to sing out our feelings. After dessert we sang old American favorites like “Turkey in the Straw” and “If I Had a Hammer.”

This year I want to add a passage from “Birkat hamazon,” the grace after Meals” that begins with the words “Kakatuv, V’achalta  v‘savata,” “And you shall eat and have enough, and then you shall thank the Lord your God for the good land He gave you.”

Say a final hodu: As a guest, for the hospitality of your hosts. As a host, for the opportunity to bring together your family and friends.

Then pray you can get up from the table.

(Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@gmail.com.)

Thanksgiving’s Jewish Roots


The Pilgrims of New Salem, Mass., were so moved by the stories of the ancient Israelites that they thought of America as their Zion and New Salem as their Jerusalem. They based their first Thanksgiving celebration on the pilgrimages the Jews were commanded to make to Jerusalem on Sukkot. There, the Israelites offered the first wheat and barley of their fall harvest to the Temple.

A Different Pilgrim

Here’s another idea of something to do during your Thanksgiving break — read the story or watch the video of “Molly’s Pilgrim.” It is based on the children’s book by Barbara Cohen (Lothrop Lee & Shepard) and winner of a 1985 Academy Award. It tells the story of a young Russian Jewish immigrant who comes to America with her parents to escape religious persecution. Instead of acceptance, Molly finds a group of insensitive classmates who make fun of her. A lesson is learned that “it takes all kinds of pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving.”

Is Thanksgiving a Holiday for Jews?


Nov. 28 approaches, and our non-Jewish fellow citizens would be surprised to discover that, in some religious Jewish circles, Thanksgiving is controversial. The holiday troubles certain Orthodox Jews not because they are unpatriotic — considering how faithful a friend America has been to Israel lately, they are probably more patriotic than ever — but because some believe that the Torah forbids participating in any non-Jewish observance.

The argument revolves around whether Thanksgiving is a secular or Christian commemoration. If it’s the latter, then obviously that poses a difficulty.

What, however, if you could make a plausible case that it is, from a certain perspective, a Jewish holiday? Such a case can be made, which, if true, should be of interest not only to the Orthodox, but to all Jews.

In discussions of the Thanksgiving question, three principle Jewish legal opinions are cited: those of Rabbis Moshe Feinstein, Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Yitzchak Hutner. The first two permit celebrating the founding of the Pilgrim colony, finding the day in late November to be purely secular in nature. The third, Hutner, concludes that it is tainted by the fact that it’s held as a regular observance on the Christian calendar.

Critics of Thanksgiving observance cite another view, that of the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797). Not commenting on Thanksgiving per se, he said that all holidays, secular or otherwise, are problematic unless they can be shown to have Jewish origins.

Enter Michael Novak, a Catholic scholar whose book, “On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding” (Encounter Books, 2001) speaks indirectly to the Gaon’s concern.

What are we celebrating at Thanksgiving? Not just a turkey dinner at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Rather, the deeds of the Pilgrims are a sign to the children that America had been born — not legally, which would happen in 1776, but historically.

Novak insists that any “purely secular interpretation of the [American] founding runs aground on massive evidence.” So then, America is a Christian nation?

Not exactly. You see this in the founding documents, notably the Declaration of Independence, which use religious language but avoid any hint of Christology. God is beseeched in Jewish terms: Lawgiver, Creator, Judge, Providence, rather than savior, father, son, holy spirit.

Novak argues that the founders stayed clear of Christian references, in part because this kept them from getting tangled in denominational quarrels — their beloved stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were “a religious lingua franca” — also, because Christianity was politically superfluous — “the Christian testament has little to say about the polity that is not already said in the Torah.” But the matter goes deeper.

Personally, the founders were Christians, but their actions were guided by what Novak calls “Jewish metaphysics” — philosophical assumptions drawn specifically from Hebrew Scripture, without which their separation from Britain would have been unsustainable. These were assumptions about intelligible purpose in history, purpose leading to progress, always in the context of human liberty. A liberty conceived not as license, but as a kind of trial, testing the heart of human beings.

Maybe it goes deeper still. From 1776 and 1620, let’s back up a few millennia. For the last three years, I’ve been working on a book about the patriarch Abraham, who makes me think of America.

In 1760 B.C.E., Jewish tradition has Abraham arriving at Haran at age 52, in what’s now southern Turkey. There he began the work of his lifetime: evangelizing and building a movement of nascent monotheism. Ultimately, according to Maimonides and other rabbinic sages, he gathered tens of thousands of souls under the wings of the Divine Presence. Genesis calls Abraham’s gentile community the “Masters of the Covenant of Abraham” (14:13). When the patriarch was 99 years old, everyone in his household was circumcised.

The mystery is what became of all these Abrahamites.

Perhaps, if we look, we may find Abraham’s household all around us. America is a country with a founding that reflects not Christian principles, but Abrahamitic, monotheistic principles. We are also a nation that circumcises its infant boys at a higher rate than any country, apart from Israel, in the world.

The fact that 60 percent of American men have the mark of Abraham’s covenant on their flesh is something we take for granted. When you consider that the surgery probably gives no net medical benefit, it’s very strange.

But America is very strange and very wonderful. The country where Jews have been more comfortable, freer to live Jewishly than anywhere in two millennia of dispersion, is a country we should be thankful for. If we have trouble thanking God for America on Nov. 28, because that day is thought to be a non-Jewish holiday, maybe we should think again — not about Jewish law, but about Thanksgiving, about America.

David Klinghoffer is the author
of “The Lord Will Gather Me In” (Free Press, 1998) and can be reached at davidklinghoffer@yahoo.com.
His forthcoming book, “The Discovery of the God: Abraham and the Birth of
Monotheism,” will be published by Doubleday in March.

Your Letters


Palestinian Statehood

It is hard to believe that thoughtful people in the Jewish community can still oppose a Palestinian state and think that moral, political and economic catastrophe can be avoided while Israel continues to occupy 1.5 million people (“The Dangers of a Palestinian State,” Nov. 23).

Avi Davis conjures up stale arguments that a Palestinian state would take over Jordan and then join with Iraq, Syria and Iran in attacking Israel. Jordan alone — and certainly neighbor states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia — would never allow this. Moreover, Palestinian terrorism against Israel would become acts of war subject to clear Israeli retaliation.

A future Palestinian state cannot begin without a new relationship between Israel and a Palestinian people responsible for their own society and government.

David Perel, Los Angeles

Avi Davis criticizes the Bush administration for recognizing a future Palestinian state, but completely ignores the fact that it has been anticipated by all concerned parties since the Oslo accords.

Whether we like it or not, a Palestinian state (just as the Palestinian Authority before it) will be as corrupt and undemocratic as any of the other nations in Middle East, and Israel will remain on the defensive until either the majority of Middle Eastern states become democratic or become convinced that trade with Israel furthers their interests.

Robert Hirschman,Encino

Rob Eshman puts the cart before the horse, just as many commentators do (“The P Word,” Nov. 16). The issue is not whether the Jewish community or Israel should support the creation of a Palestinian state. A Palestinian state will follow when Palestinian Arabs and their Arab brethren accept the Jewish community as its equals.

Alan Wallace, Sherman Oaks

Harry Potter

Since Rabbi Toba August has equated “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — a story and movie whose research and incantations are based on the Wiccan religion — to Jewish values taught in Pirkei Avot, I anxiously await the rabbi’s upcoming articles on the comparison of Jesus’ inspiring Sermon on the Mount to the sayings of our Talmudic literature. Such befitting topics for The Jewish Journal to discuss on the Kids page.

Joseph Schames,Los Angeles

Kosher Thanksgiving

Thank you, Rabbi Eli Hecht, for describing the Orthodox dilemma with non-Jewish holidays, like Thanksgiving (“A Kosher Holiday,” Nov. 23). I would bet that few Jews realize that many, if not most, Charedi Jews don’t celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Independence Day. Most of the frum day schools are even open for Jewish studies on those days.

Saul Newman,Los Angeles

Salam al-Marayati

Daniel Sokatch of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (Letters, Nov. 2) defends Salam al-Marayati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Sokatch says that al-Marayati has “apologized” for saying Israel should be the prime suspect in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, “and publicly reiterated that apology in no less a forum than The New York Times.”

Yet the Sept. 28 issue of The Jewish Journal reports that al-Marayati “told the Los Angeles Times that the quotation [al-Marayati’s accusation against Israel] was accurate but taken out of context, and he sent a ‘clarification’ to Jewish leaders.” That’s not what I call an apology.

I turned to The New York Times, which reported on the episode Oct. 22. The Times reported that “al-Marayati later said that the remark ‘gave regrettable and unintended offense to Jewish Americans.'” That’s not an apology, either.

Apology or no apology, Sokatch has failed to mention al-Marayati’s very long record of making extremist statements.

Rabbi Dov Fischer, President Zionist Organization of America, Greater Los Angeles District

Thanksgiving Traditions


This Thanksgiving, red, white and blue American flags waved among orange, gold and brown gourds, Indian corn and honeycomb crepe paper holiday decorations. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was heard among choruses of “Gobble Gobble Fat Turkeys.”

This is only fitting. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving should be observed as an annual holiday on the last Thursday of November, to foster a sense of patriotism and unity in a country enmeshed in a Civil War.

This Thanksgiving, following the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, we are already a patriotic and unified country. But, we are also a frightened and anxious country, in need of the comfort that tradition brings.

We Jews, perhaps better than anyone, know the power of tradition. We mark our lifetimes and our calendar years with ceremonies and celebrations. These provide us with meaning and a sense of identity — and, more than anything else, ensure our survival, even through pogroms, persecutions and exile.

For Americans, no national holiday is as special, as widely observed or as tradition-laden as Thanksgiving. It brings us together, Americans of all races, religions and walks of life, no matter how or when we or our ancestors ourselves arrived in this country, to celebrate a common heritage. And to eat quintessential American foods — turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie.

And so, on Nov. 22, we remembered the story of the First Thanksgiving, which was celebrated for three days, in friendship and peace, at Plymouth Plantation in the fall of 1621. But the story of the first Thanksgiving wasn’t incorporated into American history until the 1890s or early 1900s. And it also wasn’t incorporated entirely accurately.

Many of the Pilgrims were not merely seekers of religious freedom but rather strict fundamentalists, separatists from the Church of England, who were intent on building their version of the “Kingdom of God” in the New World. And 50 years after that First Thanksgiving, their descendants, by transmitting diseases and waging war, had wiped out almost the entire Wampanoag tribe.

“Mom, why do you have to ruin every holiday?” my son, Jeremy, 12, asks. But the truth is, while we need to remedy the historical misconceptions and re-examine our treatment of the Native Americans, we also need to retain the mythologized story. And to tell it.

We tell the story of the Exodus, whether or not it occurred as the Bible describes it. Whether or not God literally rained Ten Plagues on Egypt, the Red Sea parted or 603,550 Israelites, along with their wives and children, their flocks and herds, wandered in the desert for 40 years.

What matters is the story — how, with God’s help, we escaped from slavery in Egypt, journeyed through the wilderness and finally entered the Promised Land. This story defines us as Jews. Similarly, the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving defines us as Americans. As a people who fled religious oppression, who exhibited courage and tenacity in face of terrible conditions, and who ultimately survived and thrived in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

And so this Thanksgiving, we can add a tradition of lighting two candles and displaying them among our flags and holiday decorations. And we can hope, as Lincoln implored God in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation and as is only fitting, for “the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

For our country and for our world.

A Kosher Holiday


I was born into a modern American religious family on my father’s side. I was especially proud to be a fourth-generation American Jew. I played a great game of baseball, enjoyed reading the Sunday funnies and celebrated American holidays. My mother’s family was the complete opposite. They all came from Europe and had no appreciation for baseball or any American pastimes.

Growing up in the 1950s, I went to a small cheder (Jewish school). Almost all of my classmates were children of refugees.

One year, I was introduced to a very strict, no-nonsense Jewish rebbe. He had very little patience for me, as I was very different from his European students. I was an American, a Yankee boy.

According to my rebbe’s thinking, all American customs were taboo. They were considered traif (non-kosher). Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July were all jumbled into one big no-no. They were American and were out of bounds!

To prove his point, he would quote Leviticus 18:3: “Neither shall ye walk in their statutes; do not follow their social customs.”

However, not all Jews think that way.

A week before Thanksgiving, my father called up my European grandparents and told them that he had received an 18-pound turkey from his synagogue’s caterer. This was a gift to our large family for Thanksgiving. On Thursday we would have a Thanksgiving repast.

That Monday, the rebbe made a speech. “Thanksgiving is forbidden. It is a pagan holiday. No Jewish boy is allowed to eat turkey.”

Now I was in trouble. I thought that if I ate turkey my teeth would fall out. What would I do? I told my rebbe about the early Indians and the first Thanksgiving. I thought he would realize that Thanksgiving could be considered a good deed for both Jews and gentiles. I tried to tell him about the friendly Indians; how they saved the starving Puritans; that the Thanksgiving meal reminds us of the foods the Indians showed the settlers; and that it taught them how to survive through the rough winters in the new world. This was a mitzvah, to share and give thanks to God.

“Yingele [sonny], I told you we don’t celebrate these holidays. It is forbidden to even listen to your bubbemeises [tall tales],” he said.

That night, I told my dad that I wouldn’t participate in a pagan holiday. “It’s against the Bible,” I said. He flew into a rage. I thought he was going to clobber me.

“You are an American. A fourth-generation American. Be happy that you have a country that believes in God. If anything, Thanksgiving is a Jewish idea.” He told my mother that if this continues he would take me out of the cheder.

For the next few years, my father bought a large turkey for Thanksgiving, and we had two turkey meals: one on the American Thanksgiving and one on the following Shabbos.

I thought that my dad had a point. Thanksgiving, indeed, was a holiday that fit into the Jewish idea of remembering God’s goodness in providing us with our needs. Thus, we could have Thanksgiving every Sabbath.

I reconciled my dilemma between rebbe and family when I saw one of the original manifestos for the celebration of Thanksgiving.

On March 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation appointing a national day of prayer and fasting. In it he stated, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

“But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

Six months later, on Oct. 3, 1863, Lincoln wrote his Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the holiday would be observed annually on the fourth Thursday of November. In it, he wrote: “It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.”

I think if my rebbe would have seen this wonderful proclamation, he might have joined us in prayer at the Thanksgiving meal.

Operation: GobbleCrying ‘fowl’ on Thanksgiving by feeding, not eating, a turkey.


Judaism commands us to be kind to animals.

Thus I don’t eat them and I don’t keep them as pets. But this Thanksgiving, I’ve gone a step further. I’ve rescued one.

“Oh great, you adopted some foul fowl,” my husband, Larry, says.

“Not any old fowl,” I answer, “but Pumpkin, a 40-pound domestic white turkey who was found abandoned at a hatchery loading dock. I saved her life.”

Indeed, Pumpkin will be served a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast instead of being served as one.She will dine on cranberries, grapes, lettuce, popcorn and pumpkin pie with her fellow feathered friends at a farm sanctuary in upstate New York.

“But you can’t have Thanksgiving without the turkey,” my three omnivorous sons, aged 16, 13 and 11, protest. “It’s tradition.”

Even the 9-year-old vegetarian, who won’t share a tube of toothpaste with his meat-eating brothers, chimes in. “It’s tradition. Like when you make latkes for Chanukah, you have to kill some potatoes.”

But, ironically, turkey, by most accounts, was conspicuously absent from the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621.

The feast, most likely a customary fall harvest festival for both cultures, consisted of foods such as cornmeal mush, nuts, fruits, popcorn and breadstuffs. Meat, if there was any, was probably some deer meat and game birds. Or perhaps some fish.

Turkeys came later. As did the actual holiday, which was not officially proclaimed and uniformly celebrated until Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, designated the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

And 11 years later, the first Thanksgiving Day football game was played, introducing yet another tradition popular in my testosterone-heavy household.

But, for me, Thanksgiving has become less about calorie consumption and combat and more about compassion.

For it was 10 years ago, while preparing one of Pumpkin’s predecessors, that I became acutely aware that the poor bird, never mind that it could drown itself if it looked up during a rainstorm, was once a living creature. On the spot, I became a vegetarian.

But it was thousands of years ago that the Torah taught us the mitzvah of tza’ar ba’alei chayim (not causing pain to animals). Maimonides, the medieval sage, traces this command back to Numbers 22:32, where the angel of the Lord says to Balaam, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times?”

Other biblical laws involving compassion toward animals abound. Deuteronomy 11:15, “I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle – and thus you shall eat your fill,” has been interpreted by the Talmudic rabbis to mean that a person should not eat or drink before providing for his animals. And Deuteronomy 22:10 states, “You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.”

Judaism, however, clearly differentiates human life from animal life, always stressing the unique value of humans. But the two are not unrelated. As Maimonides says, “If the law provides that such grief should not be caused to cattle or birds, how much more careful must we be not to cause grief to our fellow man.”

Plus, it’s not by chance that some of America’s most notorious mass murderers, including Albert DeSalvo, the “Boston Strangler,” and Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibalistic murderer, tortured and killed small animals as children.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of a Nobel Prize in literature and dedicated vegetarian, once said, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy?” He added, “I personally believe that as long as human beings will go on shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”

But life is full of compromises. After the flood, for example, during a period of declining moral standards, of men eating limbs torn from living animals, God concedes to man the right to eat meat. He stipulates in Genesis 9:4, however, that “flesh with its life, which is its blood, you shall not eat,” meaning that the animal must be killed and the blood, synonymous with life, removed.

And I’ve conceded to my family the right to eat turkey at our Thanksgiving feast. Though this year, in an acknowledgment of what she calls my “increased evangelicalism,” my mother has willingly agreed to cook a free-range turkey, one not genetically engineered nor inhumanely raised under “factory farm” conditions. “Besides,” she says, “it tastes better.”

For my part, I will be bringing the traditional carrot pudding and the increasingly traditional vegetarian nut loaf. I will also be bringing, with the hope of inaugurating a new Thanksgiving custom and instilling an increased awareness of the sanctity of all life, a framed photograph of my adopted turkey, Pumpkin.

What to Do With Your Kids

Saturday, Nov. 18:

Santa Monica Public Library hosts a Children’s Book Festival, featuring storytellers, crafts, a puppet show, and authors and illustrators, including Sid Fleischman and Karen Winnick. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 1343 Sixth St., Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 458-8600.

Sunday, Nov. 19:

Singer, songwriter and children’s author Barney Salzberg will perform and sign copies of his books following the Children’s Book Fair at B’nai Tikvah Congregation. $7. Performance at 1 p.m.; book fair 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Westchester. For more information, call (310) 649-4051.

Sunday, Nov. 19:

The Shirettes, featuring Pearl B., Sue Epstein, Judy Farber, Cindy Paley and Ditza Zakay sing in a Jewish Children’s Concert at Adat Ari El. $5. 11 a.m. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. For more information, call (818) 766-9426 ext. 652.