On Thursday night, over 200 Olim packed into a hall in Tel Aviv for the Nefesh B’Nefesh eighth annual Thanksgiving dinner. Dubbed “My Big Fat TLV Thanksgiving”, the event included a busload of Jerusalem Olim and over a dozen lone soldiers.
“Growing up in the US gave me a lot and I’m grateful for that,” says Yonatan Chamudot, who made Aliyah one year ago and currently serves in the IDF. “I think hakarat hatov [showing thanks] is a basic Jewish value and I’m here tonight to show that. ”
The event featured a three piece fiddle band, as well as a cutout that allowed participants to pose with an Israeli flag waving turkey – after which they were given a magnetic photograph of themselves “in costume”. The dinner started with an hour of mingling and drinks, followed by a traditional thanksgiving meal of turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and beer from Israel’s boutique Negev brewery.
A key highlight of the event is the opportunity for people to meet and connect with fellow Olim. “This event provides an opportunity to get together with people and I wanted to find more community,” explains Julia Szafman, who made Aliyah in July 2013. “The event was great, there were a lot of people and it was a lot of fun.”
Although a traditional United States holiday, the celebration was not limited to US citizens. “I’m Canadian, so the only time I’ve celebrated thanksgiving has been here in Israel,” says participant Shira Slutzky “It’s always a good laugh to celebrate this holiday together in Israel.”
One of the event’s key organizers, Post Aliyah Advisor Benji Davis, spoke briefly during the dinner. “The goal of the event is to create a community for Olim – this is a great opportunity to help people connect to their roots,” he explained, adding: “Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for celebration with family, and we want Olim to feel part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Oleh family in Israel.