How to make Thanksgiving both Jewish, American

Dear Parents and Children,
The holiday of Thanksgiving is upon us and the messages of this day are many. The importance of being thankful and the value of expressing those thanks are crucial lessons for our children to learn.
Here are a few thoughts to make your Thanksgiving both Jewish and American. Don’t forget to say the Shehecheyanu!

Make Kiddush and Hamotzi on Thanksgiving

I am honored to quote my favorite Jewish educator, Joel Lurie Grishaver, from his book 40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People.
“It is important to treat Thanksgiving as a Jewish ritual meal and thereby blend Jewish and American values into a single expression. Thanksgiving has always had its own rituals. …We had never thought to make it Jewish — we had never thought to remember that when the Pilgrims were gathering that first fall harvest in their new land, they went back to the Bible and found their own way of bringing the Sukkot ritual alive.
“Thanksgiving is nothing more than a Pilgrim version of a creative Sukkot celebration — add the popcorn and cranberries, take out the lulav and etrog, and you get the picture. The moment I figured out that Thanksgiving wasn’t just an American holiday, my world changed. I was no longer involved in a thousand discussions about Jewish American or American Jew. There was no question of priorities–the answer was simple. From then on, I’ve made kiddush before eating turkey. Kiddush adds another dynamic — it show not only a melding of food, but of spirit.”
With children and adults, you have to practice the “Gratitude Attitude” for it to become part of your life. This song shares many of the wonders in the world that we take for granted. This is a great one to sing at Thanksgiving or find any number of great “thankful” songs. Since Thanksgiving is not Shabbat, you can play many thanking songs from iTunes and YouTube. And, together with your family, make a list of all the things you could be thankful for in a day.

Thank You God (Josh Zweiback & Ken Chasen)

Thank You God — for giving me this day
Thank You God — for the good You’ve
brought my way
For my breath, for my life, for my soul that’s
in Your care.
I thank You God for all the gifts You share.
Thank You God — for the mountains and the seas
Thank You God — for the birds and the trees.
For the grass, for the air, for the water
and the ground
I thank You for the wonders all around.
There are so many miracles I take for granted
every day.
But my eyes are open now, I see them all, so I’ve got to say …
Thank You God … Thank You God …
I thank You for the blessings that are mine.

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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