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Thanksgiving – Some Jewish Perspectives PDF Print E-mail

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*Postcard is courtesy of The National Museum of American Jewish History, an important new Jewish landmark, currently being constructed on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.

An excerpt from a writing by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde in Torah from Dixie:

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. It is no longer (and perhaps never was) a celebration affiliated with any particular religion or faith, although some in America celebrate with religious ceremonies. On a social level, it is celebrated by Americans of a broad variety of religious backgrounds

The History of American Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving day celebration was held in response to the survival by the pilgrims of the particularly harsh winter of 1622/3. Not only did the colonists themselves celebrate, but food was sufficiently plenty that even the Indians, with whom the colonists were at peace, were invited. This celebration took place on July 30, 1623, in the middle of the summer. Similar such celebrations occurred throughout the New England area throughout the 1600's. However, they were only local (rather than national or even regional) celebrations of Thanksgiving -- and only to mark the end of a particularly difficult winter − until 1789.

In 1789, Congressman Elias Boudinot, of New Jersey, proposed in Congress a resolution urging President Washington to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer. After quite a debate, President Washington issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation, setting November 26, 1789 as Thanksgiving and a national holiday. From 1790 to 1863 there were no national celebrations of Thanksgiving. Indeed, while proclamations of thanks were issued by some presidents, all of the presidents for more than the next seventy years chose to ignore the day as a national holiday of thanksgiving.

It was not until 1846, when the unity of the country was again in controversy because of the Missouri Compromise and the problems of slavery, that the celebration of Thanksgiving as a national holiday returned to the national agenda. President Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation came in 1863 −  the first such proclamation of a national Thanksgiving holiday since 1789.  Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a national holiday and a day of rest at the end of November, occurring either the fourth or fifth Thursday of the month.

For the complete article, and several halachic (Jewish Law) opinions about Thanksgiving, please visit Torah From Dixie website. 

Enjoy American freedom this Thanksgiving. Enjoy your holiday. And to all the troops serving on the country's behalf, stay safe.

* The postcard is from the Museum's collection, and illustrates in a small way one of the costs of freedom-the cost of life borne by our country's soldiers.

The postcard, according to its back (below), was published by the Jewish Welfare Board in Boston and depicts Thanksgiving dinner for 150 soldiers and sailors stationed in the Boston area.  According to the Smithsonian Institute, the Jewish Welfare Board was organized shortly after America’s entry into World War I, consolidating religious groups in the Jewish community to become an official agency to work with the War Department through its Commission on Training Camp Activities.

 The JWB built buildings and stocked libraries on army installations and distributed books, articles, Bibles, and prayer books supplied through its affiliation with the Jewish Publication Society.

The postcard is from the Museum's collection, and illustrates in a small way one of the costs of freedom-the cost of life borne by our country's soldiers.

The postcard, according to its back, was published by the Jewish Welfare Board in Boston and depicts Thanksgiving dinner for 150 soldiers and sailors stationed in the Boston area.  According to the Smithsonian Institute, the Jewish Welfare Board was organized shortly after America’s entry into World War I, consolidating religious groups in the Jewish community to become an official agency to work with the War Department through its Commission on Training Camp Activities.

The JWB built buildings and stocked libraries on army installations and distributed books, articles, Bibles, and prayer books supplied through its affiliation with the Jewish Publication Society.


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