We oftentimes are faced with a common debate regarding whether or not to celebrate Thanksgiving as a Jew.
Thanksgiving is a traditionally American holiday at the end of the harvest season to express gratitude for the bountiful gathering of crops. Given the purpose of Thanksgiving, what could possibly deter a Jew from engaging in such celebrations?
While Thanksgiving is not necessarily tied to a religion, there continues to be discussion on how to balance one’s American and Jewish identity.
In our opinion, there are plenty of ways to perceive and celebrate the holiday in a form that is respectful towards and detached from one’s religion. Primarily, we see it as a moment to give thanks for the season’s harvest, the same way we do over Sukkot.
The difference between the purpose of Sukkot and Thanksgiving is that Thanksgiving has secular roots, we do not associate or affiliate it with any faith whatsoever. Jews can dedicate their thanks to Hashem, while people of other religions would give thanks to their own greater force.
When we express our gratitude, we do so in a way that should be done on any random day. Because our daily lives are so busy, oftentimes we forget to stop and give thanks, this special holiday reminds us and puts it in our path.
We choose to gather and rejoice on the last Thursday of November to acknowledge the day dedicated to giving thanks. One can never give enough thanks to G-d for the blessings He sends our way. Thanksgiving is also a time to appreciate one’s personal experience in America.
Many pay gratitude towards their American heritage and background, while others are thankful for the opportunities America has yielded them as immigrants.
As many of you know, we moved to America from Venezuela. Upon emigrating we were forced to start all over, plant new roots and make a future for our families. We are beyond grateful for the way it all panned out, we launched an incredible career path, we gave our children the education and lives they deserved and we adapted to the American lifestyle. All of this was made possible due to the open arms and welcoming we received from the community at large.
Given this experience, it is a priority of ours to express our gratefulness through this secular holiday. To us it is perceived as a way of blending and assimilating with a community deserving of our dedication and effort.
While we enjoy it greatly, have fun setting a beautiful table and feasting with our loved ones, it is also done as a way of reciprocating to the USA.
So to return to the original question, how does one celebrate in a way that does not conflict with their Judaic beliefs? How does one use this opportunity to embrace their American identity?
This is all possible when you take a step back and realize that Thanksgiving is nothing more than a festive day meant to honor principles of our very religion, appreciation and gratefulness.
That being said, don’t tackle it from a position of religious acts and practice, instead see it as a day where you are reminded to count your blessings, cherish all things that make you happy and surround yourselves with loved ones.
We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope you can take this day as a moment to embrace the beauty of your lives.