By Rabbi Adam J Rosenbaum
Thanksgiving, at least how it’s celebrated in America, is not a Jewish holiday per se. Certainly, its origin story is uncomfortable given our modern sensibilities. But to me, the holiday has always felt Jewish. Gathering with family and friends for a large meal is a weekly occurrence in many Jewish homes, and of course, the theme of gratitude is ever-present during our holiest days.
I’d like to note some of the reasons I’m thankful to be a Jew in America. I acknowledge this might be an awkward time to recognize this, given the undeniable rise in antisemitism both here and abroad. But we would be remiss if we didn’t periodically remind ourselves why we’re still privileged to celebrate our heritage at this time and place in history:
- The First Amendment. Yes, the freedom of religion continues to be challenged by theological fundamentalists, but time and again, the Bill of Rights has remained durable for almost 250 years.
- Although antisemites continue to subtlety (or directly) target influential Jews, I believe it is better to have fellow “Members of the Tribe” in positions of power than for us to be on the outside looking into the proverbial rooms where it happens.
- Access to Jewish resources — educational, ritual, Kosher food — has never been more plentiful.
- We continue to transform “on the fly”, confronting the latest trends in finance and technology and incorporating them into Jewish communities built for the future.
- We also have become more and more skilled at forming friendships and alliances with non-Jewish neighbors and a plethora of other religious institutions.
Indeed, we live in trying times. And we must continue to stand up to bigotry on all fronts when and where it occurs. But we must not take for granted the ways we’re blessed to be here.
So, while Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t usually include specific rituals, perhaps we can take a moment next Thursday, November 24 to say the Shehecheyanu blessing — expressing our thanks for everything God has done to enable us to gather in freedom and safety.