In Hebrew, a turkey is referred to as “tarnegol hodu,” which literally translates to “rooster of India.” Hebrew is not the only language to attribute the Thanksgiving icon’s origins to the subcontinent; Russian, Polish, Yiddish, and Turkish – ironic because the British derived the bird’s English name from this nation – also indicate that the turkey originated in India. 

All of the confusion related to the turkey and its homeland can be traced back to Christopher Columbus, the Spanish explorer who discovered the New World.  Some say his discovery of North America led to the importation of turkeys to Great Britain via Constantinople; the birds were referred to as “turkeys” to indicate where they were purchased.  Some say that Columbus was a Jew fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and that he referred to the bird as “tuki,” meaning parrot in Hebrew, which then evolved into “turkey” over time. 

Finally, some say that, because Columbus thought he had arrived in India when he encountered the New World, he named the bird after where he thought he was, just as he referred to North America’s indigenous people as “Indians.”

Whether or not Christopher Columbus put the Hodu in tarnegol, BIG tzevet (leading board) wishes you a happy Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and fabulous food!

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