Giving Thanks and Incorporating Themes of Justice

As we approach Thanksgiving this year, I want to offer two observations. The first is that there are Jewish connections to the holiday. There is historical evidence that, prior to coming to the New World, the Pilgrims lived among Sephardic Jews in Holland for a brief time. During that period, they would have experienced Sukkot celebrations, which then served as part of the inspiration for Thanksgiving, including eating seasonal foods that would have been harvested, such as apples and squashes. In addition, there are those who say that the cornucopia imagery of Thanksgiving is drawn from the shape of a shofar.

Both the Pilgrims and the Jews were victims of religious persecution, with the Pilgrims escaping from intolerance in England and the Jews having established a Dutch community following their explusion from Spain in the Inquisition of 1492. Each settled in Holland due to the country’s religious tolerance. So, this year, as you set your holiday table, I hope that you think about this connection not only to gratitude but also to freedom.

The second observation is to take the time to think about how to incorporate themes of justice with our celebration of thanks. Here are four ways to incorporate that commitment:

  • Give Thanks to the Indigenous People who occupied this land (in Eastern Massachusetts, predominantly the Wampanoag tribe)
  • Ask Conscious Questions, such as:
    • How do your beliefs about your culture and/or your faith influence what you value?
    • How do these values influence your perspectives on racial and social justice?
  • Represent Justice on your Table. For example:
    • Put an empty plate to recognize those who are hungry or who are experiencing loss
    • A glass of water to symbolize the need to protect access to clean water
  • Commit to Action

To learn more, click here.

On behalf of Adina Davies and the entire staff, Faye Hollander and the BJEP Board, and me, we all wish you and your families a happy and healthy Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends and abundant gratitude,

Cantor Jeri Robins

Categories: BJEP Blog