Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Can You Really Get Everything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant?

Posted on | May 2, 2006 | By Rachel Adler | 13 Comments

Early on in my journey in observance, I realized that Passover was not a holiday I could spend with my family. Every year the first Seder would be at my grandparents’ house and the second Seder would be at my temple. Although my temple was within walking distance of my house, my grandma’s house was not. That, and the fact that my parents weren’t really expecting me to come home in the midst of finals. I’ve accepted not seeing my parents on any Shabbat or yom tov, save when they visit me at Penn. And I’m fine with that.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was one of the few holidays that I could spend at home with my family. For the past 10 or so years, we’ve hosted our extended family for Thanksgiving, with our cousins from New Jersey, California, and sometimes even Guatemala coming to the meal. Usually there are over 20 people. This was convenient when I started keeping kosher, since my parents started keeping a kosher house and no one had to make any special arrangements for me. Plus, I got to stay in my own home,sleep in my own bed ans see my cats, whom I always miss.

I have a younger cousin, who just got accepted to Washington University in St. Louis, where she’ll be going next year. She’s among the cousins who usually visit us for Thanksgiving. This year, however, her parents want to host Thanksgiving since this is the first time she’s been away from her family and they want her to be able to go home for her first school break. This is understandable, but when my mom told me this yesterday, I asked “What am I going to eat? And what about Shabbat?”

As I’ve said before (in my article about my parents) whenever I’m in RI, I stay by frum families in Providence. But my cousins live in Palo Alto, California. I don’t even know if there’s a community anywhere nearby. My cousins don’t have a kosher kitchen and, as far as I know, they don’t even know how to keep kosher(besides the basics of no milk and meat) since they, unlike my parents, were never raised keeping kosher. And of course, this would also mean not seeing my cats.

I know that this would be a good opportunity for me to do a kiddush Hashem if I can figure out a way to make this work without causing strife. I really love my cousins. I just have no clue what to do. Any advice?

Comments

13 Responses to “Can You Really Get Everything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant?”

  1. Chaya
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 8:16 am

    Rachel,

    If your aunt is open to you bringing your own food, that is what I usually do in these circumstances. In my experience, it is better to discuss this directly with your hosts than have your parents advocate for you. Thanksgiving is usually celebrated Thursday afternoon, right? Could you be with your family Wednesday and Thursday night and then go to an observant family for Shabbat? Here’s the link for Chabad in Palo Alto: http://www.ChabadPaloAlto.com.
    Good luck. If I think of anything else, I’ll post again. I have been doing stuff like this with my family for several years, and I have found that there is usually a way to compromise. I think you are taking a great attitude by thinking of the potential for kiddush Hashem.

  2. Mark Frankel
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 8:56 am

    Another Shul in Palo Alto is Congregation Emek Beracha. I davened there during the week when I had some business on the West Coast and it was very nice, they even gave me an Aliyah. Here is the short description from their web site:

    “For over 30 years, Congregation Emek Beracha (once “The Minyan”), has welcomed students, business visitors, and tourists to Silicon Valley. Our growing, vibrant Orthodox community over 100 families creates a warm atmosphere and welcoming environment for people from all backgrounds. Guided by Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, our Shul is committed to approaching the modern world through the perspective of halacha, embracing religious Zionism, and growing in Jewish learning and observance. “

  3. Amatziah Hartman
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    Interacting with non-religious relatives on their “home turf” always has its challenges, wherever they may live. However, you should know that the Jewish community in Palo Alto, while lacking an eruv, is quite strong. In addition to the two shuls, there is a small 6-man kollel (Jewish study Network, http://www.jsn.info/), most (if not all) of whose members daven at Emek Bracha. Also, the supermarket Mollie Stone’s ( http://www.molliestones.com/paloalto.html ) has a very strong kosher section.

  4. Bob Miller
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:22 am

    As an aside, the kosher traveler can now find packaged kosher items in virtually every supermarket, convenience store, and Wal-Mart in the US. La Briute self-heating TV dinners are available in some stores and on-line (check http://www.labriutemeals.com )

  5. Moe
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:49 am

    There’s an outreach Kollel in Palo Alto that does Jewish outreach in the whole area – extending out to San Jose, etc. Their website is http://jsn.info/ . I know some people involved in the Kollel and I’ll forward your article to them.

  6. Out of Town
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday for BTs. I know my parents were very offended when I wouldn’t eat the turkey at their house when I started becoming frum. I would definately agree that you should talk to the hosts in advance and warn them that you will be bringing your own food. Those La Briute meals are pretty good and I think they even have a turkey one. Another option is to either buy or make a meal at home, freeze it, then heat it up at their house. Or, maybe you could volunteer to bring one of the side dishes, that way you will have something to eat that everyone else will eat, then just bring your own turkey or whatever. Good luck!

  7. Ilanit
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

    I have the same problem as well…

    A) congrats on your cousin’s acceptance – that is my alma mater (I graduated in 2002) and I hope that she loves the school as much as I did! (I miss St. Louis…)

    B) I would first discuss the situation with the appropriate family members. If you are comfortable, discuss the issue with the hosts. Since you love them and I am sure they love you, they will be happy to help come up with a compromise. This is a ‘better’ situation than one where the hosts refuse to compromise at all. I have done this in the past, and I have found it to be extremely helpful as it eliminates surprises and opens the lines of communication and sets expectations. Especially since Thanksgiving is an eating-oriented holiday, no one would want you to be left out of the eating.

    C) Determine what is the most that you can do on your end. Bring a cold salad, plates & utensils, dessert, appetizers, etc. Do the max that you can do. When we went to a non-kosher house for Thanksgiving last year, I brought appetizers, side dishes, and dessert to ensure that we would at least have something to eat!

    D) Include your family in your Shabbat plans. Since it’s also a family-oriented holiday, maybe your relatives would like to ‘do’ Shabbat with you, or whatever. See what their thoughts are. Maybe you can organize something! (which may be a relief for the hostess from all the cooking)

    Now may be the time to be creative. San Fransisco is not too far away and has kosher food, I am sure. It is obvious that you are willing to do that which maintains family harmony while also staying true to yourself. Being honest will help with that. Good luck!

  8. Ken Bloom
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 8:16 pm

    Shoot. I’m originally from near Palo Alto. I’d answer, but everyone already chimed in. (And it hasn’t been all that long since you posted this either)

    (P.S. I live in Chicago now.)

  9. SephardiLady
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

    Something that is definitely worth doing is really learning about kashrut, the foundations behind the halacha, and the very practical end of kashrut (what must have a heksher and what products don’t need a heksher, what is considered sharp/hot and what is not, steam, kashering burners, ovens, microwaves, bishul, and more).

    As it is said, knowledge is power, and with some ingenuity, resources, and knowledge, it is more than possible to create kosher meals in a non-kosher home without upsetting everyone.

    Goodluck and enjoy Palo Alto. The frum community there is very nice.

  10. Ilanit
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

    SephardiLady: I am interested in learning more about what you just listed re: “the very practical end of kashrut”. Do you have any resources in mind that you could share? Thanks!

  11. SephardiLady
    May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

    Illanit-Speak with your LOR and get some good sources and books. I don’t give halachic advice since I’m not posek.

    I would recommend Rabbi Eidlitz’s kashrut list on kosherquest.org.

    What I will say is kosher food is available just about everywhere in the nation and between foil, disposable cookware, and knowing how to kasher a burner and use a microwave, it should be near impossible to go hungry.

  12. Chava
    May 3rd, 2006 @ 12:58 am

    Ah – Thanksgiving, the holiday of the BT :) . At least it is for our families.

    Neither my, nor my husband have parents with kosher kitchens, yet we have managed to make a totally kosher Thanksgiving meal in their homes. Self cleaning ovens, tin pans, disposable plates and ‘silverware’ with maybe a few pots brought in. If your relatives are game, it can be done. This also prevents the issue of ‘why do you have different food’ and ‘what, did I contaminate your food with my fork?’ and so on.

    If your cousin needs a shabbos invite in St. Louis, she’s welcome at our place. Ilanit can vouche for us.

  13. Ilanit
    May 3rd, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    Yes, I can certainly vouch for the warmth and sheer delight that exists at Chava’s house. And close to campus too! Ahhhh – I miss St. Louis!!!!!!!! (hello Chava! How are all the children? please tell everyone hi from me!!)

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