Ask A Rabbi: How Can My Family’s Thanksgiving Meal Be Inclusive, Food-Wise?

“My family is going to my new sister-in-law’s home for Thanksgiving. My husband doesn’t mix milk and meat, but my sister-in-law’s family isn’t Jewish and will probably be basting their turkey in butter or using butter in side dishes. I don’t want to offend anyone or create an uncomfortable situation. What should I do?”

First off, you’re not alone! At this time of year, so many of us are dealing with similar situations, whether it’s an issue of keeping kosher or dealing with other food-related issues, such as eating gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc. Whenever holidays gather us together, with the same people or new people, we’re forced to have the “what will you/won’t you eat” conversation. As annoying as it may seem at times to cater to everyone’s different preferences and allergies, it’s also a great opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with friends and family and open the lines of communication.

I suggest calling your sister-in-law and telling her how much you’re looking forward to sharing Thanksgiving with her, and how thankful you are that she invited your family. Ask about the menu, remind her what you’re bringing (if anything), and use that as an opportunity to mention your dietary needs (or in this case, your husband’s). For some help, check out this interesting article about explaining the different ideas about keeping kosher.

You can even offer a solution, like using olive oil in her recipe instead of butter, or offering to bring something else for your husband to eat. Even if you feel awkward about this conversation in the moment, imagine how much more awkward and uncomfortable it could be if your husband just doesn’t eat the turkey, and your sister-in-law spends her Thanksgiving worried about why.

Blending families, especially around holidays, can provide certain challenges, but these moments can also be a wonderful way to get to know one another and create new holiday rituals and traditions. Use this as an opportunity to educate and build your relationship with this new side of your family. And maybe next year you can collaborate on new recipes that celebrate the diversity in your family!

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Looking for interfaith-friendly Jewish prayers that speak to the themes of Thanksgiving? Here are some options.

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