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Is Thanksgiving a Jewish holiday?

Renee Eder on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

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Many of us have fond memories of time spent with family, indulging in turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and whatever else has earned a place on our family's Thanksgiving dinner table. As decades have passed, Thanksgiving has retained less of its original English Pilgrim origins and most American Jewish people have absorbed the holiday into their own traditions. We know Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but is it also a Jewish holiday?
Some rabbis argue that, yes, it can be! Setting aside the feasting and football, we discover that there is a way to bring Judaism into our observance of this traditional American holiday. How?

  • Teaching Thankfulness: Thanksgiving can be used as a means of teaching our children one of Judaism's most important values: thankfulness. You can do so by asking each person sitting at the table to share the things for which she or he is thankful, and teaching them that "every day is a day to give thanks for what we have."
  • Thanks to G-d: If we take the time to say a few words of thanks to God - whether for bringing the family together or for giving us the food on our plates-we can make Thanksgiving have more Jewish meaning.
  • Being Thankful for Loved Ones: Hugs and kisses all around are not required, but certainly loving gestures that show our family that we are thankful that they are there.

Even Jewish Americans living in Israel get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, often ordering turkeys months in advance and going out of their way to find American staples like canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin. 
For more details on the chronological history of Thanksgiving and the Jewish people, please read our previous post on the subject. At the J, we wish our entire community a Happy Thanksgiving! We also would like to take this time to express our gratitude to all of our members, supporters, Board, and staff.

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