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Nov 27 2013

For the First Time, Both Our Families Will Be Together for an Interfaith Thanksgiving

By at 10:01 am

thanksgiving table

A few months ago my husband and I returned to the Midwest, where we both grew up, after seven years of living in Los Angeles. Out in LA, we were far away from family, which meant that we often celebrated holidays on our own. Sure, it may sound sad, celebrating holidays alone, on the other side of the country. But there was a comfort in celebrating on our own, especially as an interfaith couple. We could observe the way we wanted, out of view of the watchful eyes of our family members–no one to check in and see how we were living out our respective traditions.

But this year is different. Not only are we back in the Midwest, and not only do we now have a 1-year-old, and not only will we have members from both sides of our families together, but for the first and last time in our lives, Thanksgiving and the second night of Hanukkah will also fall on the same day. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 25 2013

This Year I’m Thankful for My Mom

By at 10:03 am

lighting the menorah

People are all about being thankful this time of year. So, in lieu of Thanksgiving approaching, I want to thank my mom. I could seriously spend a lifetime thanking my mom. No, really, I could!

I could thank my mom for always putting me first as a single mother. I could thank her for encouraging me to follow my passion of horseback riding and being my cheerleader at every competition. I could thank her for my love (borderline obsession) with chocolate. I could go on and on, but it would sound too cliche. Every mother knows they gave their child the gift of life, right?

Instead I will thank my mom for doing something profound–showing unconditional love and acceptance as her Christian daughter embraces Judaism:

Thank you for seeing my interfaith marriage as a strength, not a weakness. You were beyond excited about the breaking of the glass, the Hora, and the ketubah signing at our wedding. I know it broke your heart silently that I wasn’t married in a church as generations before me did. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2013

Forget Thanksgivukkah–I’m Dealing with Birthdaykah

By at 11:49 am

birthday

Over the past several weeks, my inbox and newsfeed have been filled with various reminders that we are approaching a once-in-70,000-years event: the overlap of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, endearingly named Thanksgivukkah. While I am very much looking forward to cranberry-sauce-stuffed latkes and turkey menorahs, I am having misgivings about another far less public overlap that will be happening in my home this year; that of Hanukkah and my son’s birthday.

I am excited to celebrate both of these happy occasions, but am a little nervous about what will happen with gift-giving squared. Don’t get me wrong; I relish seeing the happiness in my children’s faces when they rip open wrapping paper to find the items that have been topping their wish-list. Yet, I also find that there is an inverse relationship (and I thought I would never again use high-school math) between the number of gifts they receive and their level of appreciation.

I am sure that I cannot be the only mother (at least I hope I am not the only one) who has had a child open a gift in front of the giver and blurt out a particularly inappropriate remark. Something along the lines of, “Is that all?” or, “That’s not the one I wanted,” or, “But my brother’s present is better,” or a similar comment that makes you want to invent a machine that would filter your children’s thoughts somewhere between their brains and their mouths. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

A Christmas Lesson for My Jewish Son

By at 9:41 am

“…and I tried a new recipe this year, orange zested cranberry sauce. I think it was a hit. And the turkey! You should have seen the turkey we–”

My friend, who I had been catching up with, suddenly stopped mid-sentence. He glanced over at me, an apologetic look taking over his face.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you, you know, even celebrate Thanksgiving?”

My raised eyebrow and pointed stare were enough for him to start backpedaling. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! See You Monday

By at 5:00 pm

happy thanksgiving graphicWe’re jetting off to our various Thanksgiving-friendly dinner tables, so we’ll be gone tomorrow and Friday. We wish everyone a happy, joyous, and peaceful Thanksgiving and will look forward to Monday, when we can all share our favorite weight loss tips and Black Friday horror stories.

In the meantime, be sure to check out these great Thanksgiving-related resources and reflections that we’ve got right here on Kveller:

- How to make a turkey-shaped challah. Yes, a turkey-shaped challah.

- A cranberry apple noodle kugel recipe that’s both Thanksgiving-y and Jewish-y.

- How we can be thankful even among the suffering from Hurricane Sandy, the conflict in Israel, etc.

- Wendy Mogel (this month’s book club author!) on how to teach children the concept of gratitude.

- Last year we crowd-sourced some favorite Thanksgiving recipes.

- The way that Thanksgiving is sort of like Shabbat.

Happy Thanksgiving, Kveller family!

How Can We Be Thankful as Others Are Suffering?

By at 9:23 am

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, as time in any Costco parking lot will tell you. But this Thanksgiving season, I am gasping for breath, torn in different directions.

It’s been a busy few weeks in my own personal life. I popped my fourth kid out a month ago. She went back to the hospital. Hurricane Sandy hit hard, leaving us powerless for two weeks. But in all the stress of living with a newborn and three other kids without power for two weeks–and as you may remember, I’m a semi-spoiled girl who likes her epidurals, so imagine how I feel about electricity!–it was nothing compared to how my friends in Israel are now living. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 20 2012

Turkey-Shaped Challah for Thanksgiving

By at 8:01 pm

turkey shaped challah for thanksgivingIt’s that time of year when people are talking a lot, a LOT, about food, so why should challah miss out on all the fun?

This year, we’re revisiting one of our favorite turkey time traditions: the turkey-shaped challah from Kveller contributer Ariela Pelaia. What could be more fun than gathering the kids around to help make this fun and delicious treat?

Be sure to check out Ariela’s blog for more amazing recipes and fun ideas to do with your kids. And if anybody winds up making their turkey challah, we officially invite you to kvell over it by posting a photo to our Facebook wall. Happy Thanksgiving!

My Family’s Secret Jewish History

By at 3:36 pm

I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.

The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles.  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 28 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Gratitude

By at 3:27 pm

"Are you Irish?"

I’ve been spending a lot of time feeling grateful lately, and not just because I’m still enjoying the leftovers from Thanksgiving. My baby girl got croupy (again) on Thursday night, and we ended up back in the emergency room. Sure, I was thankful for the excellent medical care we got, but one interaction I had in the hospital reminded me of just how lucky my family and I are in other ways as well.

The respiratory therapist who came to give my daughter a nebulizer treatment saw her name (Rose) and asked if we were Irish. In a rare moment of self-restraint, I didn’t point out that our last name is Naumburg (not O’Naumburg or McNaumburg), but I did mention that we’re Jewish.

“Ohhh! That’s so cool! I totally have a Jewish friend!” And with that announcement, that nice young respiratory therapist proceeded to goo and gaa at Rosie, all the while talking to her about Hannukah and latkes and apple sauce. I managed to ignore the Jewish friend comment until she finished my daughter’s treatment and wished us “Salaam Aleikum”—a traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be with you”.

She was serious. She didn’t know the difference.

All of a sudden I flashed back to my childhood in New Mexico, when I was given ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday by my public school teacher. (The possibility that we weren’t Christian was never considered; neither was the separation of church and state, apparently.) I was reminded of the time in college when our dining hall was decorated for Passover with glorious pyramids of freshly baked challah. And I remembered a conversation just last week with a new babysitter. Although we had specifically looked for one who wasn’t Jewish (our previous babysitter was a Rabbi’s daughter, and thus unavailable for Kol Nidrei or Erev Shabbat services), I wasn’t prepared for her complete lack of knowledge of anything Jewish. (Although she was quite eager to learn about “our Sabbath”, as she was interested in some nice young Jewish boy.)

As I sat in that hospital bed, holding my daughter, I couldn’t help but think that I am actually part of the 1%; Jews make up approximately 1.7% of the population of the United States, and just 0.2% of the population of the world. I have lived in a suburb of Boston for over a decade, and as such, I’ve been sheltered, and incredibly lucky. We live within a 30-minute drive of several synagogues, Jewish day schools and preschools, and Judaica shops. The public schools in our town are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We can buy Shabbat candles at our local grocery store, and which bakery makes the best challah is a matter of hot debate in our community. I write for an amazing online magazine where I can make reference to Yom Kippur, and none of my readers accuse me of making up a holiday just to get out of an exam (and yes, that’s a true story).

I live in a happy little Jewish bubble, and when it gets burst, I notice it, and it reminds me of just how fortunate my family and I are to have such an amazing Jewish community—both in real life, and online.

How to Host Large Holiday Meals (i.e. Lessons from Thanksgiving)

By at 12:50 pm

family mealI hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.

TWO WEEKS AHEAD:

  1. Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  2. Start planning out menu items.  This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
  3. Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
  4. Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
  5. Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.

ONE WEEK AHEAD: Read the rest of this entry →

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