My Most Memorable Thanksgiving Meal Was One I Didn’t Eat

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21 Nov 2007

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

For as long as anyone could remember my mom & dad had been hosting the turkey-day feast… and out of gracious concern for our dietary restrictions (ours is the only branch of the family tree that keeps kosher) they had always prepared the entire meal according to the strictest interpretation of the Jewish dietary laws. They were able to do this because, in addition to their own very nice (but treif) kitchenware, they kept two complete sets of kosher dishes, pots & pans and utensils on hand for those occasions when we joined them.

Now making an entire kosher Thanksgiving is a daunting task for those of us who already keep kosher. But for people who only do so occasionally it is fraught with potential stumbling blocks. The days leading up to Thanksgiving would typically include multiple calls from my parents standing in grocery store aisles, asking us about the kashrut of various ingredients. And the morning of the big day wouldn’t be complete without two or three dozen more phone calls for confirmation and encouragement from my wife that things were indeed being prepared according to the strictest interpretation of the law.

I can hear some of you already saying “But how can you eat food prepared by someone who is not shomer Shabbat and assume it is kosher?!” The answer is that, of course, you are correct. But the combination of kibud av v’em (honoring one’s parents) and shalom bayit (making certain concessions for the sake of family harmony) compelled us to make assumptions with my parents that wouldn’t be possible in the home of strangers.

Ironically, in their zeal to do things correctly I can honestly say that my parents adopted a few stringencies that would have never occurred to us.

Yes, they are truly special people.

So, for many Thanksgivings the entire family (grandparents, parents, kids, grandkids and various invited friends) gathered at my parent’s home and enjoyed a delicious – and completely kosher – Thanksgiving dinner.

However, this one particular Thanksgiving ended up being a bit out of the ordinary.

A few days before the holiday I found out I’d have to work on Thanksgiving, and the day before the big day Zahava and baby Gilad both ended up in bed with some sort of stomach bug.

So it was arranged that Ariella would be picked up and spend the day with the rest of the family at my parent’s house. But because Ariella was such a picky eater we told everyone to simply assume she wouldn’t be eating, and to dispense with all the additional hassle of the kosher preparations.

However, we were absolutely astounded to find out afterwards that, despite the fact that not one person at that Thanksgiving table kept kosher in their daily lives, my parents had gone ahead and prepared a completely kosher Thanksgiving… from the first appetizers to the last slice of pecan pie!

On the off chance (an extremely long shot, I assure you) that this finicky little two-year-old girl might ask to taste a sliver of turkey or a bite of pecan pie, they had all agreed that the entire repast had to be kosher… served on kosher dishes… and eaten with kosher utensils.

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

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

The memory of that long-ago Thanksgiving – a meal Zahava and I never even tasted – is like a well-banked bed of embers that continuously warms my soul.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Postscript: My parents have since made Aliyah and we will be joining them for a delicious (and, of course, kosher) Thanksgiving dinner this year at their new apartment in Jerusalem’s German Colony.

David Bogner, formerly of Fairfield, CT, lives in Efrat with his wife Zahava (nee Cheryl Pomeranz), and their children Ariella, Gilad and Yonah. Since moving to Israel in 2003 David has been working in Israel’s defense industry on International Marketing and Business Development. In his free time David keeps a blog ( and is an amateur beekeeper.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.