Thursday, January 21, 2021 -
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Thanksgiving on the train, Sukkot in the heart

WHEN I was a college student in New York City, I got a real education, from the experience of meeting new people from different walks of life and riding the subways. Growing up my whole life in a sheltered Orthodox home and environment, with no television, I was exposed to a lot in graduate school as well as just by riding those trains.

Here was one small eye opener  as soon as November rolled around.

I began noticing the many conversations people on the subway were having that revolved around Thanksgiving menu planning. I would get on the train going to my afternoon teaching job and would hear a serious discussion between two women about what side dishes to serve, be it stuffing, sweet potato casseroles, green beans and the like.

I would get back on the train two hours later, and this time it was a heated and friendly exchange between two passengers about how many desserts and which ones to prepare, pecan pie, apple pie or pumpkin pie.

At the time I remember thinking to myself, it’s just a meal. What’s the big deal? As a shomer Shabbat Jew, I was coming from the frame of mind of, we have a festive-like “Thanksgiving” preparation every Shabbos!

Home baked challahs, chicken soup, homecooked fish, chicken and cholent were just the basics. Week in week out.

Then there was Sukkot, the holiday we will celebrate for eight days starting next week. In graduate school, no one seemed to have heard of it. Whenever I needed to take off school or work for certain holidays, people understood about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Chanukah and Passover.

But Sukkot I had to explain in detail, lest they thought it was just my creative way of getting out of an assignment deadline or wheedling my way out of a  test to take.

I would start explaining, “it’s a religious thing. I am not allowed to write, we live in huts for eight days . . .” O.k, they would immediately respond, no problem. Anyone desperate enough to come up with that one to get out of an assignment, they are probably thinking, deserves the days off.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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