Thanksgiving in America is a very special time – and it is an American holiday where even traditional Jews can feel a complete part of the American experience. Attending the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, as I do every year with my kids, it feels like there are more yarmulkes out in the streets than there generally are. Perhaps it is because Thanksgiving is a completely secular holiday in terms of its origins and how it is celebrated and religious Jews over-compensate to participate in Thanksgiving.
Thus far in its history, America has truly been a great country for the Jews – one of the few countries in the world where the rivers don’t flow with Jewish blood. There is very little institutional anti-Semitism – and the best proof of this can be seen in the 50 percent intermarriage rate. They love us so much that they marry us. In the long history of the Diaspora, Jews have never been as accepted, free to worship and influential as they are today in America.
I have always found that Thanksgiving’s values are very much in line with Jewish values. During the times of the Temple, Jews would offer thankful sacrifices. And indeed in my home, my whole family expresses thanks for the special things we have on Thanksgiving, as we should.
America as a nation believes in a Supreme Being from the days of our founding fathers. In this capitalist country, a simple glance at a dollar, where we can read “In Gd We Trust,” shows us that this nation is grounded in a belief in a higher being, the core of Judaism. The inscription on the Liberty Bell is from the Torah. America is a nation at its core with strong moral values, and for American Jews celebrating Thanksgiving it is a time for us to teach the next generation of kids about how great America is for the Jews.
“Giving thanks” has always been an important part of Judaism – from Sukkot to blessings after meals. And American Jews should give thanks to the great nation of America.