Dennis Prager, one of my favorite Jewish authors/bloggers/commentators, recently posted An American Yom Tov on Jewish Daily Forward extolling the virtues of Thanksgiving as “an American yom tov.” He points out that Thanksgiving is all about a core Jewish value: gratitude for our blessings — freedom, family, prosperity (at times, at least). As Jews, America has been especially kind to us over the years — providing at all times in American history, a better environment for Jews than anywhere else on the planet (although that becomes an argument after 1948.)
For many years, our family has included kiddush and motzi (over a home-made pumpkin challah) at the start of the big Thanksgiving meal – a tradition we picked up thanks to Joel Lurie Grishaver’s “40 Things You Can Do to Save The Jewish People“:
10. Make Kiddush and ha-Motzi on Thanksgiving.
It is important to treat Thanksgiving as a Jewish Ritual Meal and thereby blend Jewish and American values into a single expression. . . Thanksgiving is nothing more than a Pilgrim version of a creative Sukkot celebration – add the popcorn and and cranberries, take out the lulav and etrog, and you get the picture.
Prager makes the interesting point that Thanksgiving is the only American religious holiday that Jews can share with the majority religion in America. No less than George Washington, in the proclamation creating the first observance in 1789, called for the day:
“to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be….”
To that, I say, “v’imru, Amen!”
Look for the Week in Review on Friday morning. Happy Thanksgiving and a Shehecheyanu for all of us!