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Thanksgiving - not a Jewish holiday; but a holiday Jews celebrate

On my synagogue mailing list this week there was a rather self-righteous discussion about celebrating Thanksgiving in a Jewish way—bringing this American holiday into the Jewish canon. Some folks think of Thanksgiving in that way. On the other side someone went so far as to criticize America for having only one day of Thanksgiving, when we Jews give thanks for creation ("she-lo asani isha" comes to mind, but that's for another forum—I mention it here for sarcastic impact) each and every day.


But, here's the thing. America has been a wonderful place to be Jewish. We haven't felt at home since the peak of influence of the Council of the Four Lands (Poland, during the earlier, larger part of its history when Jews were more welcome, and Jewish culture reached a wondrous peak of depth and scholarship and even security), maybe we haven't felt as at home here since the heyday in Babylonia and the subsequent yeshivas in which the Babylonian Talmud was written.

My father's father, like all of my grandparents, was born in this country. He felt that America had been good to him, and to Jews, in ways that his grandparents had never experienced in Lithuania, whence they came. For him, giving thanks to the existence of America, and for the way in which it welcomed Jews, was a big deal. In that sense, as for all of us, I think, Thanksgiving is certainly a Jewish holiday.

But let's not confuse our giving thanks for living in a country that, by and large, has been good to us.

There are many reasons for us to join other folks living in this land to set aside a day to give thanks in a secular context with a Jewish context (which doesn't stop us from organizing and trying to ameliorate many activities—many currently ongoing—in which this country is not doing good and needs some correction—and that, too, is for another forum, and certainly, for me, part of the aforementioned Jewish context). Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday. Why that should stop Jews from celebrating it, and even from bringing a shekheyanu and some good klezmer to the table I dunno. In that sense, let us all emulate Cantor Jack Mendelson as portrayed in the recent, amazingly warm and wonderful documentary, "A Cantor's Tale," and bring nusakh to Thanksgiving, as to everything.


I agree with your comments. A recent letter
to the Rhode Island Herald Voice, the local
Jewish newspaper, had a letter to the editor
saying that American Jews should not be encouraged to make Aliyah since they had it
so good here and that this was their country.
I think arguments can be made supporting both
points of view, but given the number of Israelis
immigrating to the US every year and the
number of Americans immigrating to Israel,
I would think the much larger movement would
be toward this side of the pond.

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