As the classic children’s book Molly’s Pilgrim explains, the Pilgrims got the idea of a harvest holiday of Thanksgiving from the Bible. They modeled their day of thanks after Sukkot. This heart-warming story of Jewish immigrant Molly takes the classic American child’s experience of Thanksgiving and connects it to the Jewish experience. Also available as an Oscar Winning short film (shot in Montclair) Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. Find the film on YouTube.
Looking for some meaningful words with which to start your Thanksgiving? Read Are there Jewish Prayers for Thanksgiving from Jewish Boston.
For larger gatherings, try Freedom’s Feast, filled with readings for the day. There are both long and short versions.
Another book of readings, a Thanksgiving Haggadah developed by JewBelong, provides options for a table ceremony especially meaningful this year.
Some years ago, Christopher Columbus was discredited as a hero because of his attitudes toward native peoples and the effects of colonization. Today Thanksgiving is having a similar re-evaluation.
All those black Pilgrim hats made out of construction paper and the Thanksgiving pageants that many of us remember from our childhoods were the cultural offspring of an elaborate plan of nation building in the 19th into the 20th centuries as immigrants poured into the United States. Spearheaded by ladies’ magazines and well-meaning New England women, this effort romanticized the Pilgrim experience and, at the same time, co-opted the Virginia experience.
The question arises whether Thanksgiving is a “Jewish” holiday, can and should Jews celebrate. This issue was debated among rabbis. Most today accept Thanksgiving as an American holiday that can be celebrated by Jews. In fact, it may be the only holiday that can be celebrated by every American, no matter race, religion, culture, politics. Read Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Rael and Not this Thanksgiving by Steinberg.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor examines the complicated story of Thanksgiving through a Jewish lens. Is Thanksgiving a story of bounty and gratitude expressed by formerly persecuted minorities? Is Thanksgiving the story of taking land from its native inhabitants, one formerly marginalized group marginalizing another? MyJewishLearning.com
Jews and Native Americans were not unknown to each other. As far back as James Adair’s 1775 “History of the American Indians,” it was theorized that Native Americans were the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Scholars found similarities in customs and language. This has largely been discredited.
It’s complicated, isn’t it?
So let’s put all our differences aside and raise our glasses in thanks for whatever we are thankful for in this strange year. L’Chaim!
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves
½ cup pomegranate juice
2 cups Champagne or sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco
- Combine 1/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat. Add rosemary; let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
- Pour 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon rosemary syrup into 4 Champagne glasses. Top each serving with 1/2 cup Champagne. Serve immediately.