Were the Pilgrims Jewish? No, but…
- When they fled England for America, they compared their journey to the Israelite exodus from Egypt.
- They held the Hebrew bible in high esteem and the Torah was the basis of many of their laws, including Shabbat observance.
- They knew that the three Jewish pilgrimage holidays Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot were festivals of thanksgiving.
Not surprising then, that the Pilgrims’ most famous holiday is one of thanksgiving.
Judaism has always emphasized giving thanks. Here’s a non-trivial piece of trivia: the words “Jew” (Yehudi) and “Judaism” are derived from the name Judah (Yehuda) – meaning to give thanks. Federation Board member Rabbi Alexander Davis points out that the very first words a Jew is supposed to say every morning are “Thankful am I” (modeh ani.)Jews are told to say 100 blessings of thanks a day. I believe one reason is to sensitize us to the reality that many are needy.
Being grateful is also one reason we invite all who are hungry to our Passover seder table. For me, the Federation is a way of saying to our community “all who are hungry, weak, old, young, needing counseling, camp and school scholarships, looking for work, needing help in Minneapolis, Israel or where ever you live: come to our table and we will be here to try and help you.” We are able to help because of the generosity of our donors and the hard work of our volunteers and staff. I extend my gratitude to you all.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I would like to suggest that nothing says thanks like giving. So if you’ve not yet given to Federation’s Community Campaign, I hope you will be generous when asked, or click here to make a gift today.
I’ll end with this beautiful prayer of thanks by Rabbi Naomi Levy that I will share at my own Thanksgiving table this year. I hope you too are moved by her words.
A Prayer for the Thanksgiving Feast
For the abundance of food on this table,
For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,
For the roof over our heads,
The clothes on our backs,
For our health,
And our wealth of blessings,
For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,
For the freedom to pray these words,
In any language,
In any faith,
In this great country,
Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.
Thank you, God for giving us all these things. Amen.
P.S. So many have been supportive to me personally in my role as Interim CEO. I am thankful to you all and feel fortunate to live in such a wonderful community!