Celebrating Thanksgiving Away from Home

Tali Burger is a madricha on Yama. Originally from Miami, Florida, Tali participated on Year Course in 2010-2011 and recently graduated from the University of Vermont.

When I think of Thanksgiving, I certainly don’t think of living in Bat Yam, Israel — I think of blue skies, 70 degree weather, the Macy’s Day parade, the Miami Dolphins football game, incredible food, and of course, my family. Until I went on Young Judaea Year Course four years ago, this kind of Thanksgiving was traditional for me. It was not until this year, a few months after graduating from the University of Vermont and moving to Israel, that I realized I had to create Thanksgiving traditions of my own in order to feel a part of this holiday which means so much to me. When I was a participant on Young Judaea Year Course in 2010, I had a festive Thanksgiving dinner with British and American girls. It was far from my traditional meal, which dampened the mood and reminded me how far away from home I was. Forget turkey, there wasn’t even chicken on the table! At that time, a time of transition out of high school and into college, I did not realize that this would be the first of many non-traditional traditional meals for me.

A new chapter of my life has begun since graduating university and accepting a job offer as a madricha on Year Course. I knew that this was not going to be an easy year, especially being away from my friends and family at home. Although it has been emotionally challenging, I have been able to celebrate the Jewish holidays the way I want to with people I enjoy. Celebrating Thanksgiving in this new chapter of my life is just as exciting for me, knowing that I can now be a part of new chanichims’ Thanksgiving experiences. As a madricha on this program, I do all that I can to help the participants feel comfortable and excited to live in this country. For Thanksgiving, I get to help create their first non-traditional holiday away from home. I get to be apart of their new community, new friends, and new family.

This Thursday night in Bat Yam, there will be a little room filled with at least 40 Americans, a few Canadians, and many Israelis, dining together away from their families and friends, but celebrating what they are thankful for. The other madrichot and I will create an environment that helps everyone feel a sense of togetherness and home. This Thanksgiving will hopefully never be forgotten by the chanichim. I know that I won’t forget it — it is the first Thanksgiving where I get to help create these young adults’ first untraditional traditional holiday in Israel. I feel very grateful to be in this position, and to be a part of such a special time in their lives. I am so excited that I still get to see blue skies, feel 60 degree Bat Yam weather, watch the Macy’s Day parade and the Miami Dolphins football game online, and eat incredible food, while sitting amongst my new Year Course family.