Thanksgiving is one of the holidays most observed by American Jews. It is also a holiday that children can get excited about, and one that they share with almost everybody they know, unlike Sukkot or Chanukah.
Giving thanks is a very Jewish thing to do. According to tradition, Jews are to give thanks 100 times each day. We are to give thanks before we eat, for having food, and after we eat, for having been able to have food.
Rabbi Susan Grossman writes there is more to the American Jewish observance of Thanksgiving than our predilection to thankfulness. She believes it has a lot to do specifically with our appreciation for and celebration of being part of life in America.
America has been good to the Jews. We have always lived here in relative safety. Our rights as a minority religion are protected by law and the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Though we may have experienced anti-Semitism at times here, it is nothing compared to the anti-Semitism our grandparents or great-grandparents escaped from elsewhere.
Celebrating Thanksgiving, then, according to Rabbi Grossman, is part of affirming the American dream, in which peoples of all races, ethnicities and religions can have enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what real democracy, a democracy based on checks and balances and protection for minorities, is really about. While such a dream is not completely realized for all Americans, the potential for such a realization does exist. May we take time this Thanksgiving to feel gratitude and take steps for the next generation to live in an even better world.