The quest for a Kosher turkey


Ever since I retired from Temple Habonim back in the summer of 2007 and we moved to our condo on the East Side of Providence, Sandy and I have been spending our Thanksgivings feasting in the Natick, Massachusetts, home of our daughter-in-law Gabi and our son David.  The multicourse meal, followed by an over-abundance of desserts, has been regularly attended by

between 13 and 17 men, women and many children.

Given the spike in COVID-19 cases, this past Thanksgiving was a greatly reduced stay-at-home affair for Sandy and me – and, I presume, for most of you. 

To preserve the spirit of the day, our dinner-for-two featured two scrumptious turkey legs, prepared at The Butcher Shop in Providence, as well as such seasonal trimmings as cornmeal stuffing and jellied cranberry sauce.  Our modest dessert consisted of slices of pumpkin bread – a far cry from the usual sampling of apple pie, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, not to mention an assortment of brownies and cookies, just in case we were not already stuffed.

Gabi, of course, was disappointed that the pandemic precautions kept her extended family away from our annual banquet.  Nevertheless, she was determined to cook a traditional Thanksgiving meal for her family of four: Gabi and David, and their two children: Charlotte, age 11, and Joey, age 9.

Since Gabi keeps a Kosher home, after teaching her class on the Monday before Thanksgiving, she set out to purchase the centerpiece of the holiday meal, a Kosher turkey.  Here is where the plot begins to thicken … a bit like holiday gravy. 

Gabi drove, along with her son Joey, to the nearby Trader Joe’s, on Route 9 in Framingham, where she has never had the slightest problem in procuring a Kosher turkey. But there were no Kosher turkeys left in the store.  She implored the store manager to call the Trader Joe’s in Needham.  No Kosher turkeys there either.

By now Gabi was beginning to panic, to move into a full-fledged meltdown, as she admitted to me in a subsequent phone call. She was also being pulled in two directions: as she was begging the store manager to call other Trader Joe’s, Joey – a lovable but hyperactive boy on the autism spectrum – was impulsively pulling bags of candy from the shelves and putting them into the shopping cart, his eyes far bigger than his stomach and thrilled to discover seasonal specialties like hot chocolate spoons (pour hot water on them, and, voila: cocoa), and, miracle of miracles, Hanukkah gelt!

Finally, the store manager, his patience stretched thin, informed Gabi that there were a few Kosher turkeys at the Trader Joe’s in Brookline, and they were setting one aside for her to pick up no later than Tuesday morning … or else. 

As it turns out, it was David who, after taking Joey to school and dropping off Charlotte at a friend’s house, arrived at the Brookline store at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.  There, at the back of the store, sat a large brown paper bag stuffed with a 16-pound Kosher turkey, and labeled DAVID ROSENBERG VIP. 

A “team leader” came over to David, handed him the bag, and said, “Let me check you out at the service desk and then escort you to a side door.  This is the last Kosher turkey in the store, and I don’t want you to get mugged.” 

You can’t make these things up!

Now, you might ask: “What does a family of four do with a 16-pound turkey?”  Answer: Leftovers.  But, in truth, Gabi dropped off some turkey at her sister’s home in nearby Needham. She also dropped off some at her parents’ home in not-so-nearby Norwood – a home that they had sold just before they took off to Florida, but on which they had not yet closed and in which their grandson, Gabi’s nephew, was quarantining because his college roommate tested positive for the virus. Got that?  Oy, it’s complicated!        

God willing, next Thanksgiving we will return to some semblance of normal – whatever “normal” might mean on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021.  Let us hope that by then Kosher turkeys will not be so hard to find in eastern Massachusetts.

JAMES B. ROSENBERG is a rabbi emeritus at Temple Habonim, in Barrington. Contact him at