Thursday, March 20, 2014

Disgusting coverage of L'Wren Scott suicide


 The media’s sensationalistic coverage of the suicide of L’Wren Scott , girlfriend of Rolling Stone front Mick Jagger, is simply irresponsible. 
To suggest that Scott committed suicide because of business woes is beyond speculative and misrepresents the serious mental health issues she must have had to commit such a drastic act.

First of all, the theory is stupid because if Mick Jagger is your boyfriend, don’t you think she could have asked him for a bail out? Also, she could have declared bankruptcy. It’s not pretty, but it’s possible.  Her bankruptcy may have been a big deal in her world, but in 2013, there were over a million bankruptcy filings in the US (  Not all of those people committed suicide.

Mental health problems leading to suicide are extraordinarily complex,  mysterious and not understandable to friends, family or even mental health professionals. In the end, we will probably know what happened with flight MH370. There will be a conclusion to analyze in the Ukrainian-Russia crisis. But with suicide, you just don’t know exactly what caused or triggered such a desperate act.

And for the media to give credence to the speculation is damaging and sensational. Do you remember Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death? There wasn’t a lot of speculation as to why he turned to Heroin again. Why? Because he didn’t have ex-wives giving interviews so that they can have the attention that they once had when they were on the arm of a Rolling Stone.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spending Five days in a Foreign Hospital with my Baby

A few months ago I wrote about a negative experience we had at an Israeli hospital. Writing negatively is often easier for me. I’m more impassioned about negative experiences. I don’t know if this is true for all writers, or if it’s just my personality.  I feel an inordinate amount of outrage oftentimes. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned out to deal with these feelings, and not be so controlled by them. I also have a partner in life who balances me out, and doesn’t get ruffled by much.

(Actually this positive story has a negative back story, but I’m not going to go into that, although I really, really want to).

On the day of my daughter’s first birthday, Friday, she came down with a cold. The cold did not improve and on Monday, she was sent home from day care with a fever.  I stayed with her on Tuesday. My husband stayed with her on Wednesday, and when I came home from work, we noticed she was breathing rapidly. She wasn’t wheezing, she wasn’t having trouble breathing, she was breathing rapidly.

It was already after hours for my doctor – cue negative story, which I’m not going to write about – and so I called my friend in the US of 20+ years, Dr. Jennifer Miller

Jennifer is not just a friend. She is a good friend. The best, really. She is always there if you need her, really always.  And she has always been there for me, amazingly, since high school. So I called her, crying I believe, and I asked her how many rates should Maya be breathing per minute.

She told me the number and Maya was almost double that.  So we took her to the ER. Where to go? Our last ER visit nearest to our apartment wasn’t good. We had taken her to Tel Aviv with an eye infection, that ER was pretty good. But we decided to go to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva.  The hospital has an amazing reputation, and we decided to go.

Being in any ER isn’t usually glamorous, but this ER was very chaotic and very busy with a lot of yelling.  We were put in a mini room fairly quickly, but getting her seen just took a long time. When she was seen, we wouldn’t hear from nurses or doctors for very long periods of time, even after she spiked 105 degree fever.

My husband kept reminding me that we were in a public hospital. If I wanted to go to a private hospital, it would be different. But we were in a public hospital. After 12 hours in the ER, I called my own doctor here and asked him if we were in a good place. He said, the best. So we stayed.

After 16 hours we were admitted.  My daughter was preliminarily diagnosed with RSV, a common respiratory infection that in a small percentage of 0-2 year olds that can be deadly.  Maya wasn’t getting enough oxygen, and she would need to either wear a mask or be under something that looks like a dog house – official medical term. 

By the way, there is an RSV preventative medicine (not exactly a vaccine, but vaccine like), but it's extremely costly and not offered, unless you ask for it. And then, you have to pay a lot of money (unless your baby is very premature).  Although the $25,000 our insurance shelled out for her hospital bill, probably cost them more.

I talked to my older brother, also a doctor,  also while we were at the hospital, and he said my niece had had this. She wasn’t hospitalized, but it was a bit of a long haul and wouldn’t be something that would go away overnight.  My parents said my other brother had this.

We went up to the seventh floor and she was examined by the chief resident.  A nurse led us to our room, and I was shocked. We would be sharing a very small room with two other parents and two other babies.  Maya and I would be sleeping with two strangers.

This is where I have to admit to being spoiled. I’m a spoiled person. I’m not a brat and I’m not a snob, but I am spoiled. I thought to myself, how am I going to do this?

There would be more. We were in charge of Maya’s vitals. We had to take her temperature in the hospital. We had to notify the nurse if her oxygen levels went down. There was no central command center per say receiving this data or reacting to it.  If she needed a bottle, we’d have to get it for her. If she needed Tylenol, we’d have to go ask for it.  If she wet her sheet, we’d have to go get a new one and change it.  Oh, and there was no t.v.

(For people who are not spoiled, this is not totally normal from where I’m from in the US. You may have to advocate, but you don’t really have to do anything, typically. And there are t.v.s)

After her first 24 hours in the hospital room, Maya was doing great. We wanted to take her home. The next chief resident and the attending doctor said, “no.” She needed a full 24 hours oxygen free, no exceptions.

So I went to the chief resident and said, “Do you really think she needs to stay?”

He said, “She is borderline for sure, but you should know this disease can work very fast and she can get very sick, very quickly. But you are not a prisoner, you can leave if you want.”

We decided hesitantly that she should stay.  I didn’t want to take a chance and knew that some of my desire to return home was based on my own discomfort with the language and the nurses. (Also, my husband offered to be there with her all of the time, but I refused to leave, and needed him to run errands and sleep at home.)

Most people in Israel speak English, but at the hospital most of the nurses didn’t. I am also really uncoordinated and was very nervous. I wasn’t doing things the right way, or the way that they wanted me to.  I was also very tired, and my Hebrew just wasn’t working. The nurse would say, “Ima,” and then all I could hear was blah blah blah blah blah.

And then there were my roommates: One family was Orthodox, one family was Ultra Orthodox. Also, I didn’t know who would be staying overnight, the mother or the father, so I wasn’t comfortable sleeping in a room with strange men, no matter how religious they were. But clearly, I didn’t have a say on whose mom or dad stayed.  I also was dreading Shabbat. I wanted to be on my computer or talk on the phone. I didn’t know if they’d say something or ask me not to.

However, Friday, Maya took a turn for the worse. She was totally lethargic, feverish and needed constant oxygen. Had we gone home, we would have come right back. My in laws came with food.

We got along with our roommates very well. Their babies also had RSV, as did three other babies on the floor. One of the babies had stopped breathing and had come to the hospital by ambulance. They were both about 6 months old. Maya was a little on the old side to be hospitalized with RSV, and it’s unclear why she reacted that way. I spoke with the other mothers in my broken Hebrew. They were very nice and our religious differences never mattered. On Shabbat, I’d answer the phone, but leave the room. They never asked me to do this, but I did. I used my computer and they never said a word.  One time, I needed to change Maya’s sheets and couldn’t manage holding her and changing the sheet at the same time – although they had no problem doing it with it with their kids. They helped me and told me to ask them for help anytime. It was religious pluralism so lacking here and in the U.S., thriving in a small hospital room.

After being there a few days, the nurse realized I hadn’t bathed Maya. I was reluctant to bathe her in the sink there. It just seemed gross. The nurse told me it wasn’t her job to help me bathe my daughter, but she would help me. She cleaned the sink and then spent the next long five minutes yelling at me about this or that. “Ima blah blah blah blah blah” I apologized for not understanding what she wanted, and she said it was okay.

By the way, nurses in Israel are extremely overworked and underpaid, more so than the US.  Starting nurses make about $19,000 here. There is also a significant nursing shortage, embarassingly so for a first-world country. The nursing care we received, with the exception of one nurse, was excellent. Also, the nurses do every thing, you don’t see a doctor very often, really only once a day.

On Sunday, Maya was doing better, and we were released by about 5 p.m. As I walked around the floor with her, I kept thinking how lucky we were, and thought of all of the parents and kids where the hospital was basically their home away from home, because their children were born with severe defects or had cancer or liver failure. All I could feel was gratitude, especially for the resident who convinced us to stay after the first 24 hours and the attending physician who demanded it. 

The resident was beginning his shift right as we were being released. I found him and thanked him.

He said, “You know, the next day at home I looked you up in the computer to see what had happened.”

 “I sort of figured you would,” I said.

So, it wasn’t the US, but Maya received excellent medical care. It wasn’t fancy, but they got her better.  And in the end, that’s all that matters.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m a little less spoiled.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Jewish Organizations are making terrible decisions re David Harris-Gershon

I’m very disheartened, dismayed and pretty much disgusted over the recent cancellations by Jewish communal organizations that had previously reserved my friend David Harris-Gershon to speak about his book.

David’s book is about a process of reconciliation that he went through with the family of the terrorist who tried to kill his wife.

To make a really long story short, the reason that they have cancelled his speaking events is because in July 2012 he wrote an article in Tikkun entitled: Today, I’m coming out in Favor of BDS (Boycott,Divestment, & Sanctions against Israel.)

Some of you might jump up and say, “Great, ban his ass.”

But I’m going to tell you why that’s not the right answer.

David has over and over and over and over clarified his position on the issue. He has most recently written in Haaretz after being banned by the DCJCC that he “views economic sanctions as a legitimate form of nonviolent protest for Palestinians to use, despite my opposition to some tactics used by the BDS movement and its implicit goal of a bi-national state.”

I don’t see why any Jewish organization or Jewish leader would not be okay with that statement, especially given the fact that when Palestinians used a violent form of protest, his wife paid a high price and their friends were murdered.  He is saying, “Go ahead, use a non violent form of protest to make your point” and I am adding, rather than setting off bombs and killing innocent civilians.

Why David felt the need to write that article in the first place, I really don’t know. But find me a politician who hasn’t changed his or her mind about something, or clarified a position, since July 2012.  Remember Barack Obama’s red line? Remember Netanyahu’s not-so-subtle support of Mitt Romney?  It happens all of the time, and I don’t know why executive directors or donors feel the need to ban someone like David from speaking about his book – which has nothing to do with BDS.

As David keeps reminding us, he is a Zionist and he is a Jewish studies teacher. I knew David and his wife during a period when they were becoming more observant. I hung out with David while he was at the West Bank Yeshiva. I went to their hippy Jewish wedding. I visited them a few months after the bombing in Jerusalem. I saw them when they lived in DC. David stayed at my place in Chicago a couple of times, once to visit a sick relative and the other to attend a conference on teaching Israel in the classroom. His wife came to my wedding reception 18 months ago. I can tell you with absolutely no hesitation that David has no inclination to destroy the state of Israel or the Jewish people. He will not convince the college students at Hillel to boycott Israel or Federation donors to stop giving their dollars to campaigns.  He will not make JCC members not want to attend a Yom Haatzmaut celebration.

He will tell the story of his book, sign a few copies, and offer a unique, tragic and hopeful perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian narrative.

I am finding it hard to swallow the bitter pill that the power players in the American Jewish community, a community in which I worked for 12 years as a Jewish educator sending thousands of people to Israel, can be acting so reprehensibly to one of its own.  It’s also just a big mistake. Every Jewish communal organization talks about “engagement, engagement, engagement.” No one, especially not Millenials, wants to be engaged by organizations resembling dictatorships with 501(c) (3) designations.

And the excuse of “unwavering for support for Israel” or “campuses are under attack” just doesn’t cut it when you are essentially ostracizing someone based on your own ignorance, rhetoric bulimia and lack of nuance rather than a true threat.

David is not harming Israel. Just ask the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion who said the following: The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Letter to my Daughter on her First Birthday

Dear Maya,

On the day you were born, after having contractions for two days, I woke up and my water was leaking. Even though you were only 35.5 weeks, it seemed like you were done hanging out and wanted to meet all of the people who love you. Your abba drove in heavy traffic to Northwestern University's Prentice Hospital. It took 45 minutes to drive five miles. 

You probably wanted out a little early because I had something called cholestasis of pregnancy.  My entire pregnancy I had a pain in my upper right quadrant and the last few weeks of your life, terrible itching on the bottom of my feet, my hands, arms and legs. Your abba and I kept saying that I was a chatul, which is Hebrew for cat.

He pulled up the car, walked us to their intake room. I waited as he parked, which is no easy task between 9-10 a.m.  Then we were sent to a triage to make sure that my water had really broken and it wasn’t something else.

The lovely nurse did the test and 15 minutes later she came back with the results. “You are having a baby today!” she said. Your abba and I both said, “Yeah!!!” and I started texting family and friends.

We were taken up to a delivery room and I was given petossin to move the process along.  On a side note, two other Israeli babies that we knew were being born on the same floor, but they pulled rank on you and were born on the 9th.

Happily, my doctor, Dr. Moses, was at the hospital that day, and he came to check on me several times. My old friend Dr. Jennifer Miller was also at the hospital that day and she came to visit. Your Uncle R-Jay is an anesthesiologist at the hospital, and came to visit a lot.  Your dad was sitting at the table finishing a paper he had due that day for his history class. At some point, I think our entire family, mom, dad, Eric, was there visiting, too. Although this is where it gets a little fuzzy.

Later in the evening, my body wasn’t exactly doing what it was supposed to and I wasn’t progressing. At some point, your heart rate dropped and I was on my hands and knees on the bed with what seemed like 20 medical professionals in the room. It was very scary. Your heart rate went back to normal and from then on I wore an oxygen mask. I was a little scared, but I really had faith in the doctors. At this point it was evening and Dr. Moses had already gone home to take care of his three beautiful, smart kids; Dr. Starr was on duty. I had never met Dr. Starr before, but I liked her immediately because she exuded confidence.  She told me after the heart rate incident that if it happened again, there would be a good chance that you would be born by C-Section. I was okay with that, as my best friends and your Bubbie had all had C-Sections.  Dr. Starr did something though to help me progress, and it worked and I began to dilate faster. I was not quite fully dilated when your heart rate dropped again. A team of about 20 again came in and Dr. Starr looked me straight in eyes and said “this baby needs to come out now.” She took the forceps and after a few pushes, took you out.  Sometimes your mom thinks of things at weird times, and when she took you out I was thinking that I hope you would grow up to be as confident and competent in whatever you do as she was.

We didn’t know your gender and were excited to find out that you were a girl. You didn’t cry at first, but after a team of doctors worked on you for probably 30 seconds, maybe more,  you screamed! It was the best sound I have ever heard. 

Then I can’t remember who held you first, me or your abba.

We were taken to our room and you were declared healthy. You were five pounds, two ounces. You were a little small, but didn’t need any medical intervention. You were so cute and had the biggest eyes ever. 

Minutes old.


On the day of your first birthday, you woke up with those same eyes, only brighter, but you were also a little crabby. I changed your diaper and got you ready for school. After a bottle, you were your usually smiley self.

 I dropped you off, and you had a huge smile because you love the woman who takes care of you.  I went to work, but all day all I could think about was you.  I picked you up at 3:15.

Your Sabba and Savta came over at 4:30 and you and I got in the car at 4:45 to head to Jerusalem to spend some time with your Abba on Shabbat.  They came over to help on Saturday so I could get some rest (although I’m writing this while they are out on a walk with you).

Your Abba has been leading tours for 18 to 26 year olds and hasn’t been home in a month. You and I also just made a trip to and from the US, your third trip!!!! You already have 36,000 frequent flyer miles at age 1. We drove to Jerusalem. You slept the entire way. I used Waze and it took me down a road that had I actually evaluated, I would have avoided. First we stopped at our friends' house,  Yaniv, Dafi, Guy and Michael. They gave us some supplies we needed. Then we headed to meet your Abba at the hotel.

Your Abba had bought you a cake, and we were trying to figure out when to give it to you. It was already Shabbat, and although we aren’t observant, we didn’t want to bother anyone else.  We asked the hotel for dairy plates and went to a corner of the lobby with a candle and the beautiful cake that your father bought. Luckily, just as we were about to do the cake, our old colleague Sara Weiner came in and agreed to be our photographer. THANK YOU SARA.  We lit the candle and sang happy birthday.  You, me and your Abba blew it out and wished for you a healthy, happy year. 

Your father had to take care of some business and I went to eat with his group: 40 college students from Brown University and 7 IDF officers. This was an apropos way to spend your birthday, because your dad and I met on one of these trips!!!!

The Brown students were so sweet and loved you. You were flirting with them like crazy. Your abba and I didn’t know this, but they planned a surprise. They had the hotel bring out a piece of cake for you with a sparkling candle. All 50 of them sang happy birthday, and well, you started screaming and crying. The right word is whaling. It was a little too much for you, but I was impressed by how sweet they were and thanked them profusely. This is a credit to them but also to your abba, who everyone loves as their tour guide.

Maya, this is definitely not how I envisioned my child's first birthday. I would have thought of a big celebration with other kids, cake, balloons, my parents, brothers, their wives, your American cousins.  Next week you will have that kind of celebration with your Israeli cousins, and I'm sure it will be beautiful, there will be an awesome cake, and the food will be delicious. 

But on the day of your birthday, I pictured it differently.  I pictured you unwrapping presents and playing with the boxes. I pictured you throwing your face in a Dainty Maid cake.

But I want you to learn something that  took a long time, too long, for your mommy to learn. Sometimes the way we picture things are not the way they are meant or need to be. 

And the way that things are is just perfect.

We left the hotel at 9:30 p.m and arrived home at 10:45. It was a quick trip and a bit chaotic, but I don’t and didn't regret it. I wanted you to spend your first birthday just like you spent the first hours after you were born: with your abba and me. 

And it was perfect.

 Video of Maya eating her cake.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Iran or Israel?

Two weeks ago my daughter had a 103.5 fever,  hours before we were leaving to visit my family in the United States. Luckily, my in laws were with me. We decided because she and I  were flying, we needed to go to the ER for a clear diagnosis. For example, if she had strep throat or an ear infection, we wouldn’t fly. The nearest hospital to our apartment is Laniado in Netanya. I knew nothing about this hospital except that there was a sign for it on the highway and a friend of mine had delivered her baby there.

First, and most importantly, the medical care she received there was excellent  (especially from one of the nurses), thorough and fairly fast for an emergency room. She was diagnosed with something not contagious, but that for sure required ER care, and we made our flight to Chicago.

However, the hospital experience was the most bizarre I have ever experienced in Israel. I have been to five medical facilities in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva. Laniado was my sixth in this country. When we pulled up to the hospital, the parking lots were gated off. When we asked a security guard to open the gate, he gave us a hard time: “It’s Shabbat,” he said.  My mother in law told him that we have a sick little baby, and he relented after a bit of back and forth. However, he said to drop her off, and then park blocks away from the hospital. When we entered the hospital, I was taken (my mother in law came with me) to a back room with my daughter. The intake person  (who was also lovely) handed me a cell phone. There was an unidentified man on the line that said, “Listen, it’s Shabbat. No (pediatricians) are around. Can you come back tomorrow?”

Clearly, I wouldn’t have come to an emergency room if I could have come back tomorrow, but I explained my situation, and he said, “Well, can you wait around until Shabbat ends so you can pay your bill.”

I told him I didn’t understand what he was asking – although I did because I wanted him to actually say it: They didn't really want me receiving care on Shabbat, but if my daughter really needed care, they didn’t want payment on Shabbat, but they didn’t want me skipping payment.  There is a clear sign at the admissions' window that says how much tourists and residents must pay for an ER visit.  (My daughter and I are not citizens of Israel). I said he could have my place of employment, my address, my passport number, and that I would for sure not forget to pay my bill.  My mother in law also offered her address and passport number. He argued with me some more (by the way, I still have no clue who this was) and then again relented.

While we were in the waiting room, I called my husband to give him an update. A different security guard scolded me me, “No cell phones; it’s Shabbat.”  My father in law wanted to entertain my daughter with a little video on his cell phone. Again, a security guard looked over and said, “No cell phones; it’s Shabbat.”

This is the video my father in law wanted to show my daughter. 

Because of all of the tests my daughter needed, by the time we left, Shabbat was over and we could pay our bill and be on our way.  But regardless, here are my questions:

1.     Why is an Emergency Room open on Shabbat if they do not want people to come there on Shabbat?

2.     Is this kind of Sabbath intimidation legal? It’s the hospital’s right, I guess, to close off its parking lot, but do the security guards have the right to demand that I not talk on my cell phone because of the Sabbath? (It’s not a rule because cell phone use is annoying; it’s a rule because it’s a “commandment.”  Do they have the right to not let us drop off the baby at the front of the hospital?

I ask these questions for two reasons:

a.     I have friends who live in this area (Even Yehudah) who are not Jewish, and would not understand the hospital’s behavior and be really put off by it Despite the good medical care, I would probably steer them clear of it, unless this was an anomaly.
b.      What are my rights in a situation like these, besides to go to a hospital in Tel Aviv if we, and I hope we don’t, need an ER again?

Looking forward to your responses.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Reponse to Jerk who is being celebrated by social media re the Huffington Post

Dear Elan,

Congratulations on earning fame and Twitter followers due to your nasty exchange with a woman on an airplane. Although the post was mildly entertaining, in the end I feel a bit sickened by your behavior which was inappropriate and wrong, more so than Diane’s.  Although I hesitate to write, because it will send more people to your story, perhaps my perspective will shape how they see you and your Tweets.  

I have three big problems with you.

1. Your stunt must have stressed the flight attendants trying to get through the busiest travel season of the year. The very people you were allegedly trying to protect, you probably harmed as they wondered if they would need to ground the flight due to a passenger incident.

2. You also display unsubtle and now publicized misogyny as exampled by your description of Diane and your foul “request.” Would you have requested a male passenger to dine on the same body part?  This reeks of serious issues with women that I hope for your sake you address with a professional.

3. Your lack of compassion is troubling. Flying has become a brutal necessity as our families are farther and father apart. You have no idea what Diane’s issues are or why she was wearing a mask. You can’t change a stranger’s behavior on a flight, but you can influence your own personal reaction to her.  You could have put on headphones and ignored her. She wasn't seat encroaching. She was not even really near you on the plane. She did not deserve your attack and your now public shaming of her for publicity.

With all of the negativity in the world, there is no need for the year you have named after yourself.  You are the equivalent of a gross stampede on Black Friday. The ugliness that you are promoting is certainly not in the holiday spirit, and I hope if you fly on New Year’s Eve, your resolution will be to be kinder to everyone around you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

When I was little, my dad used to call me his little turkey. I have no idea why.  Perhaps it’s because he grew up on a farm. However, the name was very apropos for my meltdown last week.

I live in Israel, but work at an American company. So last week, the social committee of said company hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner.  The company provided drinks, tables and chairs, and the attendees had to each bring a dish.

I was unusually excited for this event. I was happy that I would get to celebrate Thanksgiving, even though I would be missing the time with my family.

The day began like any other Saturday (Shabbat). Typically, we stay home and lounge around or go to my in laws who live about 80 minutes away.  I ate a yogurt and then worked out for an hour. Then I watched the baby, while my husband ran as I prepared lunch.  I didn’t eat very much of the lunch, because I was saving my calories for Thanksgiving Dinner.

In the afternoon, I prepared the dish that I was bringing: pumpkin casserole. I am a decent cook, but typically a terrible baker. First, I had to bake the pumpkin because there is no canned pumpkin here. After baking it, then I had to scoop it out and puree it. However, from the beginning there were already some issues. We bought enough pumpkin to quadruple the recipe, but did not have the right amount of butter.  So, I substituted applesauce and olive oil thanks to advice from a quick internet search.  Also, the recipe called for dried milk. I think that’s gross, so I wanted to use coconut milk.  But I didn’t have enough coconut milk, so we added skim milk. I do not have the greatest oven, so it’s never really clear what temperature the food is cooking at. Also, because it’s in centigrade, even a minor change is a huge temperature differentiation.  My lack of aptitude, bad decisions, the wrong ingredients and a not-so-great oven were not the best conditions to be baking.

The aluminum pan was super heavy. So Lior transported the pan on a cutting board to the oven as I assisted.

After an hour, the time allotted for it to bake, it looked like pumpkin soup, not casserole. We gave it a half an hour more, and then another 15 minutes. By then, it looked ready. Lior took it out from the oven and oh &%#@!  The pan collapsed.
This is what it should have looked like. Click here for the recipe.

Besides the intense cleanup just as we were dressed and ready to go, we lost about half the pumpkin casserole. I wasn’t mad or upset. My grandmother, when I was 9, was terribly burned by a pan collapsing that spilled hot oil on her legs. She honestly was never the same after that, although perhaps it was a symptom, not a cause. Regardless, I was just glad that no one was hurt. We decided to make lemons out of lemonade and changed the name of the dish from casserole to pumpkin pudding.

We were one of the first to arrive at the dinner.  It wasn’t really a sit down event. There was a huge table set out for food (the company provided the tables, drinks and turkeys). The company I work for has about 100 employees, and most people attended,  plus their spouses, children or plus ones. As soon as we were given the all clear, I grabbed a little plate for Maya with a taste of several items except turkey - she only has four teeth. It was bittersweet that her first Thanksgiving meal was not with my family, but this was a nice compromise.  A husband of one of the veteran teachers looked at my plate for Maya and said with a troubled face in Hebrew, “That isn’t a lot of food.”  I responded “Yes, but it’s for a baby.” His look was foreboding, but I shrugged it off, not understanding his silent prophesy.

Lior and I have a pact. He eats first, I feed Maya, and then I eat, because he eats so fast  Whatever then needs to happen with Maya, he takes care of while I eat.  So as I was feeding Maya, Lior went to get his food. He stood in line for a while and then came back to eat.  He was done eating 3000 calories in about 100 seconds. So then it was my turn. I don’t really eat baked turkey, but I was hyped up for mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, creamed spinach, artichoke dip, green bean casserole and whatever else was there. Many of the Israelis brought traditional Israeli food, hummus, taboule, Israeli salad, etc,  although I had no plan of eating any Middle Eastern food. After all, it was Thanksgiving Dinner.

As I approached the table, I grabbed a plate and then looked.

No food.

It was all gone.

Not a marshmallow, not a crouton, not a spinach leaf, not a green bean.

There was just a little bit of hummus that was left, mocking me.

And so, I lost it. I could feel the tears welling up and had to run to get Lior so we could go. I had to keep it together. My boss was there, the superintendent was there, my colleagues who I always plaster a smile on my face for were there.

I had to keep it together.

On my way to find Lior, I ran into a colleague. She is a Jewish Canadian immigrant to Israel who is 9 months pregnant. She saw my face and asked me what’s wrong.

“There’s no food,” I said.

“There is food,” she said. “There’s some turkey and I think I saw some hummus.”

“No, I don’t want that,” I said.

“Okay, but why do you look like you’re about to cry?” she said.

“Because it’s Thanksgiving food,” I said.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “I can bring you sweet potatoes on Monday if you want.”

A fact about Canadian Jews. Unlike most American Jews, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. So they do not have the same attachments to the customs. I also didn’t want to go on and on about it, because she is one of the few friends I have here, and I could tell she was giving me the, "you're weirder than I thought" look.

Then I found my beloved husband and daughter. “Lior, we have to leave now,” I said.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“I don’t want to get into it here, I need to leave,” I said.

Usually, he would be the first person to want to leave a party, but the inquisition began.

“Why?” he said.

“There’s no food,” I said.

“There’s got to be some food, let’s get you some food. There’s turkey, and I think I saw some hummus,” he said.

“I DON’T WANT HUMMUS!” I said.  “I want Thanksgiving food. I want green bean casserole. I want pumpkin pie. I want the terrible banana cake we eat every year at Thanksgiving for my brother’s birthday. I want to leave.”

“Sharna, this resembles chicken fingers,” Lior said.

He was recalling  a time when my then 3-year-old niece woke up grumpy from a nap. She asked what was for dinner, and my brother said hamburgers. She said she wanted chicken fingers and then cried for literally 45 minutes just repeating over and over “I want chicken fingers. I want chicken fingers.” He and I often joke if something bad happens, we want to know if it’s “chicken fingers” bad or as an adjective for a person acting irrationally about a situation involving food. For example, the time when I was pregnant and went to have a healthy snack of hummus and carrots only to open the hummus to find a half a teaspoon left. It was and has been the biggest fight of our marriage.

Yes, this was a chicken fingers moment so I gave him the look. You know, the universal look every wife gives to her husband when she is angry. As we walked out the door we saw the CEO, a lovely, cheerful man from Texas.

“Did you get enough to eat?” he said.

“Yes!” I said too enthusiastically. “We’ve got to go, the baby is tired.”

I rushed to the car with my Israeli husband behind me.

“Sharna, I don’t get it,” he said. “I can make you mashed potatoes if you want.”

That comment made things worse and then the tears came.  These tears were not merely about food, but about being homesick, grieving my aunt, having almost no friends here, and panicking about all of the papers I had to grade.

I put Maya to bed, squeezing her tight, and tried to get control over my emotions. However, when I put her down, I started crying again. (PS: I did not become a crier, except for rare occasions until she was born) How could I be so selfish about food when people are dying in the Philippines and children all over the world don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis?

The next day I woke up with a crying hangover. I thought to myself, I have to get it together and get in the true Thanksgiving spirit.  I packed up a bag of clothes for a donation box, signed up to donate blood, and I suggested to Lior that we invite his family over, not for Thanksgiving, but Shabbat lunch the next week. They have never all been here, and it would be nice to get everyone together.

11/12 of them could come. During lunch I realized why there’s no Thanksgiving in Israel. For many families, every Saturday lunch is Thanksgiving. (They also have their own version in September/October).

I made stuffed chicken breasts, the pumpkin casserole and curried ginger carrot soup.

We also bought wine, challah and soft drinks. But my in laws brought so much more food: salads, tuna salad, baked chicken, root vegetable, fried chicken, meatballs, and rice.

There was too much food to capture in one frame. This is every Saturday at Maya's grandmother's house.
We bought a cake and his sister made a cake to celebrate 3 family birthdays.

It was a wonderful afternoon. Maya loves her cousins. My husband was happy. And despite the language barrier, I was happy, too. (Although, I think my Hebrew is actually getting worse living here rather than better).

Maya getting a hug from her cousin who is about 10 months older than her. She is being held by her grandmother, or Savta.

So, I guess the lesson from this “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” is that Thanksgiving is really not about food but about family. And I miss my family, but I have a lovely extended family here, and I’m thankful that I have opportunities to enjoy being with them.  I’m also thankful for my husband and Maya, who was born a little over a month after last Thanksgiving.

Yeah, I love her more than sweet potatoes.

But man, I would kill right now for some of those American side dishes.  And although I try to be rational, sometimes I just think about that dinner and think bitterly,

“All I wanted was some f&*%@$# stuffing.”