A Jewish Thanksgiving By Roni Robbins Thanksgiving may be a favorite holiday for us Jews. There’s no long service or retelling of stories before we can eat. We don’t have to give up food or dramatically change our diet for eight days. It’s all about the heavy, starchy, calorie-laden, make-you-need-a-nap food. Oh, and spending time with family. And Jews are big into both. For that reason, the AJT decided to ask a few rabbis how they celebrate the holiday and their thoughts on what makes Thanksgiving Jewish. We provide you a few prayers to consider at your Thanksgiving table or over the long holiday weekend. And to top it off, we offer some food for thought – literally. Recipes to help you get in the holiday spirit. Not everyone in the Jewish community always celebrated Thanksgiving. Growing up with Canadian parents, Thanksgiving wasn’t a big part of Rabbi Mark Zimmerman’s life. “And frankly, I loved my mother’s honey-glazed corned beef – I guess the kosher equivalent of honey baked ham – way more than turkey! But now, Thanksgiving is a special part of our lives where we get to sit together with our children and grandchildren, and where we spend a whole day together while I engage in our annual – typically successful – experiment with my electric smoker,” said the rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom in Dunwoody. “My neighbor may celebrate Christmas, and I may celebrate Chanukah, but we’re both celebrating Thanksgiving,” Zimmerman said. “And while an American holiday, Thanksgiving is a very Jewish idea. Saying blessings of gratitude is an every-day part of Jewish living, including the regular Birkat HaMazon, the traditional Grace After Meals. “Every time we recite a blessing, we are essentially saying thank you. And after Pittsburgh, we all need to recognize that everything and every relationship we get to enjoy in this world is a precious gift.” Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman of Chabad Intown doesn’t necessarily celebrate Thanksgiving in a traditional way with turkey and fixings. “My wife says we have thanksgiving every Friday night. We usually have a feast.” But the family tries to get away to the mountains for the holiday and reflect on gratitude for this country, he said. “It is a privilege to live in this country. Despite the challenges we’ve experienced recently, it’s still the best country Jews 14 | NOVEMBER 23, 2018 ATLANTA JEWISH TIMES
experienced in our history. There’s something to be said about that.” He explained the origins of the holiday. The forefathers came to a country that welcomed them to live freely, he said. “That meant they could practice their observances of faith without persecution, the ability to live according to G-d’s will, and they established Thanksgiving as a way to give gratitude for that.” While Thanksgiving may have evolved from there, the core concept is as relevant today as when the forefathers set foot in America, Schusterman said. And that hasn’t changed with the recent anti-Semitic events in Pittsburgh, he said. “It’s not a perfect place, but we still have to look at the big picture.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe called America “a kingdom of peace, a country whose laws support our rights to live as we choose, and we collectively have to give thanks.” America offers “values of peace and freedom we had not experienced before the United States of America.” The Jewish concept of gratitude is a fundamental value, Schusterman said. “We say Mode Ani in the morning to thank G-d for restoring our souls, and we give thanks where due.” Blessings before and after eating are other examples of showing gratitude, he said. Judaism is full of blessings, opportunities to give thanks for the kindness G-d and others show us, he said. Appropriate for Thanksgiving are the Psalms, attributed to King David, expressing a soul’s longing for G-d, gratitude for living, uncertainty about the future and the quest for faith, compassion and goodness. We’ve chosen some you might want to consider reading at your Thanksgiving table or around the holiday period. Psalm 28: Let G-d Be Your Strength Psalm 30: Give Thanks Forever Psalm 100: Praise Psalm 111: Nourishment Psalm 118: G-d is Good Psalm 150: Every Soul Rejoice
4 cups warm water 2 cups sugar 2 tablespoons dry yeast 6 eggs 1/2 cup coconut oil or canola oil 2 cups canned pumpkin 5 pounds and one cup high-gluten flour 1 tablespoon salt 2 beaten eggs whites for egg wash In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a magic mill) place water, sugar and yeast. Let the yeast foam for a few minutes. Meanwhile, mix together in a smaller bowl eggs, oil and pumpkin. Once the yeast has foamed, add the pumpkin mixture to the yeast mixture and mix together by hand or in the machine for about a minute. While the machine is running, slowly add half the bag of flour, then the salt, then the remaining flour. The mixture will start to form into a dough ball. It may be sticky, so you can slowly add up to one cup more of flour. Once the dough isn’t sticky, leave it to rise for 2 hours covered in the bowl. The batch will make 6 challahs. Divide dough into 6 even pieces and then braid to form the challahs. Place the challahs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes until the challahs look golden brown. If you are adding the topping, pat it on top of the challahs after the egg wash, right before they go in the oven. Tip: An easy way to tell if challah is cooked through: Carefully tap the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it's fully cooked.
Need more nourishment for the soul? Here are some recipes to help you savor the spirit of the holiday. Thanksgiving stuffing using homemade challah, the traditional braided egg bread served on the Sabbath and holidays. You can use any type of challah, including garlic or whole wheat, but the pumpkin challah in this recipe works perfectly with the fall flavors of dried herbs, fresh pumpkin and chestnuts.
Pumpkin Challah Stuffing
8 to 10 cups cubed pumpkin challah
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 cup cubed pumpkin (1 small pumpkin) 1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 teaspoon dried thyme ½ teaspoon dried sage ½ teaspoon salt 32 ounces vegetable stock 1 tablespoon honey ½ cup chopped, roasted and peeled chestnuts Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a large casserole dish with cooking spray or oil. Place cubed pumpkin challah on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add the pumpkin, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, sage and salt and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the pumpkin doesn’t burn. Add the stock and honey, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Pour the toasted challah into the pot and stir to saturate all of the bread. Transfer the challah mixture to the casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes until the top of the stuffing is browning and crunchy. You can make this stuffing in advance and freeze. To reheat, uncover and warm in the oven until the top is crunchy again. Recipe by Kristin Bustamante Source: www.thanksgiving.com
Egg-Free Sweet Potato Kugel (Parve)
It’s not often you come across a kugel recipe that doesn’t involve eggs. But this dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free Sweet Potato Kugel is bound by a bit of whole wheat flour and lemon juice instead. Enhanced with root vegetables, apple, and a hint of bright lemon zest, it’s a nice alternative to heavier potato kugels. 1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound),