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What Is Jewish About Thanksgiving? Part 1

November 14, 2018

Thinking about Thanksgiving, many people wonder about the Jewish aspects of the holiday. So I’ve laid out the top three reason that show how Thanksgiving is definitely a Jewish holiday. They are threads in Thanksgiving that run through all of our holidays. They are:


  1. Food
  2. Family and Friends
  3. Prayer


  1. Food: My spouse takes over the kitchen on Thanksgiving. I take off early in the morning before the house is up and head to my yearly Turkey Trot fun run ritual with a friend and my daughter and hopefully come home with a prize winning pie. By the time he is done with the food and table you could easily take a picture and not know which picture is the actual Norman Rockwell painting. My husband’s mother’s side of the family came across the United States in stagecoaches long ago. My family is half Canadian. Growing up, my brother and I happily awaited chicken soup and mandelbread on the table for Thanksgiving. Maybe even some challah rolls. So although I have made “sacrifices” due to marriage on the content of the dinner itself, it still remains a delicious and special evening for our taste buds.
  2. Family and Friends: It is a given that someone besides our immediate five will be sitting and eating at the table with us. It is sort of a joke in the house that when we don’t have more than five people at our table on any given night that there is something wrong and the house actually seems lonely on a Shabbat without additions. Family and friends create the opportunity to break bread together, to share Thanksgiving stories, to catch up on the year, and to play. Kehillah – community – shapes us to do good and to have a great time as well.
  3. Prayer: Not in the formal sense of synagogue service, nor even that of the Friday night rituals, but in the deeper sense of saying “Wow, look at what we have in front of us. This can’t go unnoticed.” As we salivate looking at our feast, we go around the table, saying something we are thankful for. Before we begin eating, we take those delicious rolls in our hands and recite the hamotzi because it just doesn’t feel right to start a meal without the words of thanks on our lips.
Stay tuned for part two where I talk about Thanks and Giving.
Categories:Babies | Couples | Kids | Tots

Bethany Friedlander moved with her husband and three children to Colorado in 2011. She has a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University and a MEd in Administration. She has worked in education and the Jewish community since college and played in both her whole life. Bethany is one of the Community Organizers for MazelTogether.

Additional posts written by Bethany Friedlander
Newish, Jewish, and Finding A Community
What Is Jewish About Thanksgiving? Part 2
Sharing Hanukkah in the Classroom

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