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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

Comments read comments(12)
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kanu chatterjee

posted November 14, 2006 at 5:34 pm

As a high- caste Hindu Brahmin from India I find the act of having a Thanks-giving dinner a perfect way to thank God for his bounty. All Brahmins say a small thank you prayer to God and bless the house and its members before each meal with the sacred thread in their hands . I am happy that the Jewish people carry out this ritual like us.

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posted November 15, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.

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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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posted November 20, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Can’t believe none of you mentioned Barbara Cohen’s book, Molly’s Pilgrim! A wonderful children’s book about what it means to be a pilgrim and to be Jewish. Go and read! Happy Thanksgiving.

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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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Melisa Stone

posted November 27, 2007 at 12:49 pm

I’ve been studying the Jewish/Hebrew holidays, customs, and alphabet for a while now. Through studying my family’s roots, I’ve discovered several family lines that are tied to Jewish roots. This has spurred a spark of interest to do more studying on Judiasm. Through the last study of the Sept.- Oct. Jewish observances (Sukkot, Repentance Day, & Feast of Tabernacles), I made my own services at home to line up as much as possible to the way the Jewish would do, and at the very same time done. As I did this, I felt a special and sweet presence of the Holy Spirit. Throughout my prayers and thanks to God I found myself in such an awe of Him. Tears streamed down my face in these special services and the feelings felt were undescribable. I felt like Jesus honored my efforts to take time to acknowledge his calendar of time He has placed on earth, instead of ignoring it. I feel that the Jewish calendar is Jesus’ calendar, but that Jews have honored it. It is my hope that more Christians recognize the things that are important to the Lord, which includes His timetables. It’s my hope one day to be in a community of other Jesus Jews to share these wonderful holidays and times with.

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elmer simendinger

posted November 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Rabbi Grossman’s eloquent response is appreciated. It begs the question, who will the occupants of the White House be giving thanks to ?

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posted November 24, 2011 at 5:46 am

It’s interesting to note that the first Thanksgiving had its roots in a Jewish tradition – the Birkat HaGomel said after surviving danger. I read about this at

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posted October 26, 2013 at 7:17 am

Thanksgiving – lols.

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