Standing at the checkout counter watching the young woman struggle to scan my 18 pound turkey, my coat still wet from day three of torrential rains, the dude behind me looks disdainfully at my turkey, then at me, then at my turkey, and then back at me. I raise my eyebrows, daring him to speak.
He accepts the challenge. His face half pity and half condescension, he drawls, “I never really ‘got’ Thanksgiving. It’s so silly. You’re in Israel now, be Israeli. Stop being so American.” Then he adds, “I’m French.”
I stood looking at this man in all his self righteous glory. On a good day, I have no patience for idiots. On day three of wet and cold? My patience had washed away long before. Many, many retorts ran through my mind — but, quite unlike me, I held my tongue… mostly.
But it really, really bothered me. And so, of course I posted on FB.
Oh hey, you know what’s obnoxious? Telling the American (who you don’t know) who is buying a turkey that you’re ‘not into the whole thanksgiving thing, and we are in Israel and you should just be Israeli already. Enough with the American stuff’ with a sour puss on your face. Then telling her that you’re French bc dude, that clears it right the %^~~ up.
I myself had never been very ‘into’ Thanksgiving, it is entirely probable that I have called it silly myself (I am not above being obnoxious on occasion).
But, the whole day, his comments festered, made worse by those who commented by agreeing with my unsolicited opinion giving Frenchman… not only was Thanksgiving bashed, but so was the country I was lucky enough to grow up in.
I had started the day just buying a turkey for my husband and ended up in a full on defense of Thanksgiving Day and the United States of America. And, oh say can you see, a few hours later I was planning a no holds barred Thanksgiving feast.
The US took in my family — my father’s family a few generations earlier when they ran from Russia, and my mother at the age of two and a half. My grandmother had to begin her life again, for a third time, after losing a husband and children to the Nazis and Poles. The man who would become my grandfather made it to the US by boat after losing a wife and children in the war. He had everything taken from him, including his second wife who died on the journey. Left penniless with a young daughter, a once wealthy man began again, in the United States of America.
As Jews, we are told to honor the lands we live in — deena de-malkhuta deena — means that the laws of the land are our laws. Is Thanksgiving a law? No. It is however, a national holiday, one that is free of religion or anything else that might conflict with Judaism and Halacha. There is no problem with having a turkey dinner and discussing what we are grateful for, including the land that has taken in so many of our people and given us the freedom to worship without fear!
My poor Frenchman cannot go back to the place where he was born and feel half as safe as the Jews in the United States. Perhaps he does not ‘get’ Thanksgiving because he cannot ‘get’ being grateful for a place that has given him freedom and safety outside of Israel.
Jews are often suspected of having other loyalties before the loyalty to the land they live in. It has gotten us in heaps of trouble when no wrong has been perpetrated. Shall we disdain a day of thanks (started by the way, by a group of people running from religious persecution in thanks for survival in a new land), for no good reason other than it is not ‘ours’?
As Jews, we are commanded to acknowledge the good that people do for us. Yes, we thank God everyday, but do we thank the bus driver? Our teacher? Our siblings or parents? Being grateful for a country that has harbored us, and people that do things for us every day, is far from ‘silly’.
Has America gotten out of control in its pursuit of happiness? I say so right here in Naked & Afraid in the Dunkin Donuts — and Black Friday psycho-ness surely brings it home, but I will tell you one thing. I would rather see people in the streets fighting to get a TV at Best Buy then what I saw in Paris — people fighting to break into a synagogue and lynch the Jews.
So, thank you Mr. Frenchman, for you have brought out the proud American in me and God shed His grace on me, I will be making a damn turkey the Shabbas after Thanksgiving for as long as I am privileged — even while gratefully living in the Holy Land — because to disdain as silly the place that took in my family and gave us rights and freedom would be… odieux.
*My brother in law is French and he is awesome. Please do not judge all French people by this dude. 😉