A gourmet cook, I’m not. Quite frankly, I see myself as culinary-ly challenged. Even though I have never taken the time or expressed any interest to look at the various possibilities for the sumptuous repast that adorns the table of American homes on the fourth Thursday of November, I stand in awe at the plethora of recipes that come out each year. There is, however, one recipe that I should like to share, in the hope that one’s Thanksgiving dinner truly lives up to its name.

Having seen the how very easy it is to have those at the table lose their appetite when politics is brought up, might I suggest that rather than speak about the Democrats or Republicans, there other “parties” that deserve to be serve as the main topic of discussion for all who are present. Perhaps the host can go around the table asking each invited guest to name the best Thanksgiving meal he or she has ever attended and why. Alternately, the host could ask those present to tell about the most interesting guest that has ever graced their Thanksgiving table and what made them so interesting. Far better to have everyone involved discussing a neutral topic than see two people going at each other, as they argue the merits or the worthlessness of a political view that they hold sacrosanct. Remember, the turkey is on the platter, not someone seeking or holding political office.

A little more than two months ago, various foods, symbolic in nature (either because of taste or because of name) adorned the Rosh Hashana table in traditional Jewish homes. For example, honey flowed freely as  it coated slices of apple dipped into to it, thereby tastefully telling us that in Judaism we look forward to a sweet, rather than happy year. However, historically flawed it may be, the apple serves to remind us of the primordial fruit, as we celebrate the creation of the world. Carrots, especially in stewed form, are a staple in Eastern European homes (the Yiddish word for carrots is “merren”, a homonym for the Yiddish word “increase”) in that it is our hope and prayer that the year bring with it an increase of all things good. Why shouldn’t foods similar in intent, adorn the Thanksgiving meal as well? Rather than make a “tsimmes” over sweet potatoes, perhaps it’s time to introduce (pareve)  au gratin potatoes to the table. Served either, instead of or in addition, to the sacrosanct sweet potato, au gratin potato, by its very name, could serve as a word play for “gratitude.” As peachy keen as peach cobbler is, why relegate apple pie to July 4th? One not need be suffering from a bad head cold to realize that that there very little difference between  the sound of “apple” and “ample.” Ample food, ample comradery, ample blessings are hopefully what Thanksgiving is all about. Last but not least, the final course of the Thanksgiving meal ought to be replete with a hot toddy, given the similarity in sound of “toddy”  to the Hebrew word “todah”(thanks.)

Chances are that no one is at a loss for words at a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if there are friends or relatives in attendance. Yet, prior to carving the Turkey, perhaps a request can be made by the host, asking that those in attendance to come up with three reasons (non-compulsory) to give thanks. Better yet, set a pen/pencil with a sheet of paper at each place setting for the invited guests to jot down their gratitude, to be shared during the meal. Should the host really want to add a dash of spice, the directive may include that the reason for thanks omit standard platitudes . It would be interesting to see if anyone takes the time to thank the volunteers who helped provide the “have-nots” with a Turkey dinner or the those on the police force or those at the firehouse who are putting the welfare of others before being with family. Or airline captains, flight attendants who are miles from home. Or bus drivers and cab drivers who are helping take people to Thanksgiving dinners and bringing them home again. This Thursday….

May you savor the flavor.

May the symbolic food not elude.

May the conversation merit positive evaluation.

Happy Thanksgiving


Ramadan, is a month long festival on the Muslim calendar which celebrates when the first verses of the Quran were believed to be revealed to Muhammed in the year 610.  Each day of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. At the conclusion of Ramadan, Muslims participate in a festival known as Eid al Fatir.
Recently, a roving reporter accompanied by a videographer approached Israelis from various walks of life on the sidewalks of Jerusalem, asking them if they would like to extend Ramadan greetings. With a week left to this month long Muslim festival, it would well be worth our time to look at some of these greetings. The results are astounding!
“Ramadan Kareem! Peace be upon you and G-d’s love and blessings” said a seventy something year old kippah wearing Israeli in fluent Arabic.
“I want peace in Israel with the Arabs, with the Christians with the Jews…everyone together are (sic) brothers. Inshalla! Amen! Ken yehi ratzon!” intoned an elderly Israeli woman, also in fluent Arabic.
“I wish everyone a happy Ramadan. Joy! Success! Love! Mazel Tov” exulted a twenty something year old Russian immigrant.
“Happy Ramadan to our Muslim brethren, our cousins here in Israel as well as in the territories and the surrounding countries. G-d willing there will be peace. Enjoy the holiday”, exclaimed twenty something year old Israeli male.
Perhaps these responses were “filtered” by the interviewers and we did not get to see any Israeli responding to the roving reporter by heaping curses on Muslims or wishing that they choke to death on their evening meal. Perhaps the Israelis being interviewed were playing to the camera and saying all the right things. Or perhaps, everything that was shown on the video was in fact genuine.
The common thread in all these videos is that there were no recriminations. All Israelis were in good cheer wishing Muslims the very best. Can you imagine if a Palestinian walked the streets of Ramallah or a refugee camp, stopping Muslims toward the end of Elul or the beginning of Tishrei asking them to share High Holyday greetings with Israelis or Jews in general? Would Muslims be as effusive in their good wishes toward us, as we appear to be towards them?
The common thread that exists is that the Israelis were able to separate politics from religion. Israelis will do whatever is necessary to keep Israel and its people safe from the (Muslim) enemy but at the same time they wish Muslims the very best, when it comes to celebrating their religious holy days. This would be a monumental, if not impossible task for Muslims, because so many of their clerics as well as their political leaders have polluted the Koran with political fanaticism. Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) is typically screamed by Muslim terrorists as they fly a plane filled with passengers into a skyscraper or drive a bus filled with innocent civilians over a cliff creating mass murder and mayhem.
The common thread that exists is that the vast majority of Israelis from all walks of life, from religious to secular focus on peace and coexistence and not death and destruction as their goal. For all their talk that Islam is a religion of peace, the Muslim public has remained silent, fearing for their lives, as the lunatic fringe (I’m afraid that in reality, it is more than a fringe) preaches death to the Jews, annihilation of Israel and domination of Europe (for starters). Because of their inability to speak out, the silent Muslim majority has de facto capitulated to a leadership that focuses on carnage, mayhem and domination of the world.
But let us be philosophical. Better, Muslims should celebrate their festival rather than our deaths. Let us then wish them Ramadan Kareem!
* Arabic for: Ramadan is a generous month when it comes to goodness and rewards.
Ramadan Mubarak or a blessed Ramadan is also an acceptable greeting.