After catching Frum Satire‘s “Frum Jews don’t celebrate Thanksgiving” video in my Twitter feed on Sunday, I felt compelled to do some learning and figure out if there was an answer to the question that popped up in my head: all jokes aside, is it ok for Jews to celebrate Thanksgiving?
Thank. goodness. for. Google. A quick search of “is Thanksgiving kosher” (yes, adding ‘kosher’ to your Google search really is the easiest way to figure out if something is halakhically acceptable or not*) and “can Jews celebrate Thanksgiving” lead to a wealth of discussions on the topic. Glad to know I’m not the only one trying to figure out if I can dig into my turkey and cranberries without feeling Jewish guilt…
For a great summary of three Orthodox positions on the question (and taking it further to mean “can Jews celebrate Thanksgiving and eat the traditional meal of turkey with cranberry sauce?”), head to “Is Thanksgiving Kosher?” at MyJewishLearning.com. Or, if you’d rather do your learning while washing dishes or folding laundry, you can listen to this YU Torah Online session with Rabbi David Horwitz. Really cool to see how most of them arrive at the same place (yes, it’s ok) but with different reasoning and caveats.
The Union for Reform Judaism doesn’t specifically say ‘yes, it’s ok’ on their website but with a quick scan, I found a few resources to help “bring Jewish values to the table” and some Rituals for Thanksgiving on the RJ.org blog.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism has a great piece by Rabbi Jerome Epstein on bringing the holiday home and a piece that suggests reading Psalm 100 (Mizmor L’Todah A Psalm of Thanksgiving) at your holiday table, “as it was recited in the Temple when a thanksgiving offering was made.”
I’m sure there are many, many more discussions on the topic and I’m pretty sure I’ll get a little obsessed and keep Googling away. In the meantime, let’s all dish:
Can/Should Jews celebrate Thanksgiving? Is there anything you do to include Jewish traditions into your Thanksgiving celebration? How the heck do you save room for Shabbat dinner the day after the Great Turkey Chow Down? Stuffing in the bird or out? And, am I the only one who just discovered that you shouldn’t brine a kosher turkey?
*Other than asking your local rabbi, of course!
As a kid growing up in a small town, I never understood Thanksgiving. It felt like we had just done the big fancy dinner thing with the still recent High Holidays, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around a holiday where shul wasn’t involved. Fortunately, my mother felt the same way, so it was more of a tv day than anything else.
As the only Jewish one in my family, I’m thankful for a holiday that *isn’t* centered around a Christian (or other) religious celebration. It’s much more comfortable for me to get together with the fam for T-giving than to show up for Christmas dinner (even if my family is beyond accommodating with dietary restrictions, table blessings, etc). Maybe it’s because my family is pretty laid back about it – just a nice family dinner on a day when everybody is off of work.
What’s not Jewish about giving thanks, spending time with family, and eating?
@Jeff – From the discussions, it seems like it’s not so much the what but the when. Would we still feel cool eating a big celebration dinner on Christmas? And since lots of people go to houses of worship on Thanksgiving, has it become a quasi-religious holiday?
But, for the record, I agree with you. In my book, it’s all good as long as I’m mindful of not turning it into an unsanctioned quasi-religious holiday.
Thanksgiving is about American history and being proud to be here and having what we have. It’s a time to do a great deal of tzadakah and bring joy into other’s life as well. Say a prayer of thanks to G-d, for all he’s done and be together with family. Interfaith families can understand each other, because who doesn’t want to celebrate and thank G-d for what we have.
Emily- That’s how I feel, too! What’s funny is that I never liked turkey, so I always had some ham instead–more of a Christmas stable than Thanksgiving, and was the only one who ate the ham then. Pork was really the only meat that I really liked. Well, I don’t eat it anymore and it’s been cool to see my family adjust and accept that.