There is something about Thanksgiving that transcends other American holidays. Most national holidays seem to have more appeal as days off than times to appreciate American values. Other holidays similarly commemorate themes of gratitude for life in this unique land…i.e. memories of those who gave their lives, presidents that led us, workers who built this country and leaders who inspired us. Yet, only Thanksgiving comes directly into our homes, as each family, with its unique rituals and customs, gather in the afternoon and evening to celebrate their appreciation of life in the USA.
What makes Thanksgiving uniquely special for the Jewish community is that it is a family holiday that all American families can enjoy with gratitude for so many blessings, including the freedom to be different.
What a wonderful blessing that B’nai Israel has a long standing tradition of welcoming this holiday with our friends at St. Paul’s Church, in Benicia, whom we will be hosting this year.
Thanksgiving celebrates shared values of gratitude and appreciation for differences that make America special in honoring and blessing its unique heritage. We utter praises and thanks for a nation built on principles that human beings created in God’s image have the right and responsibility to live their truths and learn from one another in contexts that respect and cherish individual rights.
So while the Jewish community may be out of rhythm during the winter holidays where we give greater play than is warranted to Chanukah as a response to Christmas, even as we do what we can to honor the Sabbath when much of the rest of society does so on Sunday, Thanksgiving is the one holiday when we are all in sync.
In addition to our home celebrations on Thanksgiving Day, our interfaith community celebration the evening before will bring together not only our friends from St. Paul’s in Benicia, but also many folks of other traditions some of us have met in our newly formed IAF community. Folks from neighboring churches look forward to meeting you when they come as our guests for our service and reception at B’nai Israel on Wednesday, November 21 at 7:30 PM. St. Paul’s Pastor Jeanne Forte will be giving the drash.
Having recently emerged from our major Jewish holiday season, concluded with our 8 day thanksgiving holiday of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, it will be wonderful to count our blessings in the larger context of the only country in western history built on principles of Torah, integrating the dignity of humankind with the presence of God in how we make our decisions to cherish life and live the values upon which this country and Judaism in particular are based.