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Virtual Talmud

Thanksgiving Is a Very Jewish Holiday

After Passover and Hanukkah, Thanksgiving is perhaps the holiday most observed by American Jews. It makes sense for a number of reasons, and not only because we Jews can’t pass up an excuse for a good meal.

Thanksgiving, as in giving thanks, is a very Jewish thing to do. According to tradition, Jews are to give thanks 100 times each day. We are to give thanks before we eat, for having food, and after we eat, for having been able to have food. Each morning the traditional liturgy includes thank-yous for such simple acts as standing up and having the strength to get through the day. One more Jewish link is found in our Scripture: The initial Thanksgiving feast was probably based upon our fall thanksgiving festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles)


But I think there is more to the American Jewish observance of Thanksgiving than our predilection to thankfulness. I think it has a lot to do specifically with our appreciation for and celebration of being part of life in America.

America has been good to the Jews. We have always lived here in relative safety. Our rights as a minority religion are protected by law and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Though we may have experienced anti-Semitism at times here, it is nothing compared to the anti-Semitism our grandparents or great-grandparents escaped from elsewhere.


Celebrating Thanksgiving, then, is part of affirming the American dream, in which peoples of all races, ethnicities and religions can have enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what real democracy, a democracy based on checks and balances and protection for minorities, is really about. While such a dream is not completely realized for all Americans, the potential for such a realization does exist.

As Jews, we know that such values cannot be realized or retained unless they are transmitted. Perhaps that is why the American Jewish Committee recently created a lovely Haggadah (a service of sorts) for Thanksgiving that includes the stories of many diverse peoples and a litany of thankfulness that includes being thankful we can express, and change our opinions (another place that Jewish and American values intersect).


Easily downloadable, the AJC Thanksgiving Haggadah can add meaning to a meal that all too often focuses either on the Turkey and fixings or on family tensions, thus redeeming the one holiday all Americans can truly share.

–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman

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Chana Silverman

posted November 16, 2006 at 8:04 pm

Ditto : )

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posted November 18, 2006 at 12:57 pm

As a “Born-again fundamentalist Christian,” I thank God for every Jewish person on this earth. Yes indeed, Thanksgiving, as a holiday, is VERY Jewish in origination. Of course, everything “Christian” is. Every Christian on earth should take much time on Thanksgiving Day to envelope their minds around the people so loved by God. There is nothing more beautiful than Thanksgiving. It has ALWAYS been my personal high holy day. Why can’t every day be like it? From Adam to Moses, to the Christians seeking their own home in a distant land . . . thanking God for life itself. Indeed Thanksgiving is like a Jewish “festival.” As the world turns this way or that way, the origin of life and thankfulness is well-represented in the Jewish community. Which includes The One Person, I’m most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Anonymous Also

posted November 22, 2006 at 1:11 pm

I apologize for horning in here, but haven’t been on Bnet in months (endless hairsplitting of the issues on the other blogs gets old in a hurry). I saw a post on here from my cyber buddy eastcoastlady, (if she still even remembers me :-)) and wanted to give her a big shoutout, and to wish her and everyone on here the happiest of Thanksgivings. :-) :-) We now resume our regular programming … Thank You,

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MK Gross

posted November 23, 2006 at 5:58 am

So we had all the family sitting around the table and my brother’s mother-in-law pours a goblet of wine for my brother and says “Say the kiddush.” My brother turns to me. “What am I supposed to say?” he asks. “Baruch ata h’ elo’ melech ha-olam bore p’ri ha-gafen” I answer, then he intones the blessing over drinking wine or grape juice. I guess we got the holiday mixed up with another Jewish one, but things came out OK. –Michelle

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Rabbi Barry Rubin

posted November 16, 2007 at 12:37 pm

I’m pleased that Beliefnet posted an article by my neighbor, Rabbi Susan Grossman, a non-Messianic rabbi. On occasion, I have attended services at her synagogue and enjoyed them. She’s an excellent teacher and fine person. It’s good to show that non-Messianic rabbis have much to contribute toward blessing others, especially Christians.

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