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. The easiest — don’t forget to say the Shehechiyanu!
Make Kiddush and HaMotzi on Thanksgiving. My favorite Jewish educator, Joel Lurie Grishaver, says in 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 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…. I was no longer involved in a thousand discussions about Jewish American or American Jew…. From then on, I’ve made Kiddush before eating turkey. Kiddush adds another dynamic — it shows not only a melding of food, but of spirit.”
Now that you’ve heard the “adult thinking part,” add the story of Molly’s pilgrim to your traditions. The book “Molly’s Pilgrim” was written in 1983 by Barbara Cohen. It tells the story of Molly who has moved from Russia, and the children make fun of her for her differences. The school assignment is given to make a doll Pilgrim for a display. Molly tells her mother that Pilgrims came to this country to worship G-d as they pleased. Molly’s mother makes Molly’s Pilgrim dressed as a Russian woman. Not surprisingly, the children make fun until their teacher explains: “Listen to me, all of you. Molly’s mother is a Pilgrim…. She came here, just like the Pilgrims long ago, so she could worship G-d in her own way, in peace and freedom….” (There is also a video available!) Thanksgiving has many lessons to share!
Continue being thankful after Thanksgiving. Our rabbis tell us to say 100 blessings every day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of 100 things that we are thankful for? A camp song written by the director of the UAHC Goldman Union Camp, Rabbi Ron Kotz, called “The Na Na Song” includes the words: “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et haolam — Blessed are You, Eternal G-d, Ruler of the universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world.” Add this to your daily blessings; do your part to make the world better — start this Thanksgiving.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.
Dear Parents and Children,