I Dream of Turkey

We’ve got Turkeys on our mind.  A Russian jet is shot is shot down, and the post-Paris sense of a world unravelling leaves us feeling confused and scared. My mind is cast back to those lessons in high school on the causes of WWI: a gunboat crisis here, an assassination there… In the past of course we’ve been able to comfort ourselves that it is all a long way away. Across oceans so vast that it might as well be happening on another planet. But no such comfort is available now. After Parramatta, and as we approach our own sad anniversary, of Martin Place. Even typing that phrase a year ago would have been unthinkable.

But Turkeys are on our mind for positive reasons too. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about, thinking about wonderful things like Halloween, PJ Library, Moishe House, the Observership Program, and Y2i, that “we can be thankful for American cultural creep”. And this week, our friends and relatives across the pond, have celebrated their most wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving – which is yet to really make much of an impact in Wagga Wagga (sur Mer, or proper), which is a pity really because we have so very much to give thanks for.


Turkeys are so emblematic of the modern world we find ourselves in. Confusing, ambiguous but delicious. Discovered in the New World and brought back to Europe by the conquistadors, only to be reimported to North America by the Pilgrims. We don’t even know what to call them. In many European languages, a turkey is an Indian chicken (indyk in German, and hendika hen in Yiddish). In Hebrew too, the turkey comes is assumed to have come from Hodu (India) and even in Turkey, a turkey is a hindi, and yet in Hindi it is a turkee. Even within English, the status of turkey is a bit ambiguous. Call someone a turkey, and it’s probably only slightly better than calling them a goose. But ask Diane in our office (or any other Maccabi ten pin bowler), and she’ll tell you she knows people who dream of nothing but turkeys.

Who could blame the bird for being a bit confused.

In terms of the delicious part, even though there are serious questions around turkey kashrut, unless your family are vegetarians, there will be very few homes which won’t happily serve turkey for a Shabbat meal (many more than that goose, which is not in any kashrut dispute). In this way the turkey is also emblematic of our Jewish ability to adapt to, and incorporate the new. Here is the final word from the kosher mavens:

Conclusion: The near universal acceptance of turkey as a kosher species, given the halachic quandary it presents, would indicate that the Jewish people have either accepted the possibility of originating mesorahs where none existed before or of accepting birds without the need for a mesorah. It is very possible that had the turkey question been posed when it was first introduced in the early 16th century, Jewish gastronomic history might have been different. It seems that many authorities may have initially come out against turkey because of its obvious lack of a mesorah. For some reason “bird controversies” erupted in the 18th and 19th centuries and when the turkey question was posed it often took the form of “why is it eaten?” rather than “may it be eaten?”.

So if there is one take away as you tuck into a bit of turkey this Shabbat, consider that this bird is on your plate because we are people who ask “why” rather than “whether”.

We are also a people who give thanks, and for us every day is a day of thanksgiving. Indeed, that is what Modeh Ani means, which is the prayer said upon waking every morning. So Thanksgiving and the Jews have been comfortable bedfellows since the start. Coming as we are towards the end of an incredible year, of energy, and creativity, and a huge effort from JCA’s dedicated staff, and impassioned lay leaders, and selfless volunteers, we have much to give thanks for.

The good news is that even though our 2015 Campaign will close at year end, we are already very very close to raising the nearly $14m required to run all of the services and programs that keep our community sustainable, vibrant and secure. We will be sending out some letters to those who haven’t had a chance yet to contribute to our community through JCA this year, and we really do hope that everyone can contribute something. Or you can just jump online here. For those who have already made a contribution we give thanks. Our community thanks you, as do the people who rely on your support but cannot thank you in person.

So this Thanksgiving Shabbat, Teşekkürler, which is how a turkey would say thanks if it spoke Turkish,

Shabbat Shalom,

Daniel Grynberg, CEO