I know I sound like a curmudgeon. But I seriously don't get the whole
"religious Jews celebrating Thanksgiving" thing. I didn't get it in
America and I really, really don't get it in Israel.
This was the Facebook status I posted 18 hours ago. So far, there are 38 comments on my status. My pro-Thanksgiving Facebook friends, a good percentage of whom are religious Jews living here or back in the US, variously argue that Thanksgiving is:
a holiday lacking religious significance and basically just an excuse to get together with family and friends, watch football and overeat.
the time to appreciate that America affords religious freedom to Jews.
an excuse to party with other American ex-pats.
a national holiday that all Americans can share.
a great time to get together with non-religious family because religious Jews can drive and cook and are off from work.
It's Thanksgiving in America and today, I went to work in Jerusalem and then came home and put up the challah dough to rise, pretty much like I do every Thursday. Personally, I have zero attachment to Thanksgiving. I stopped celebrating it a long time ago and I haven't once missed any aspect of it.
The Jewish calendar is so full of special celebrations, and a Jewish life lived well is so full of opportunities to express gratitude multiple times a day, that I personally feel absolutely no need for the ritual. And if I want turkey and stuffing, I'll make it for Shabbat.
Thanksgiving may not be a religious holiday, but it's certainly not a Jewish one. I'm not declaring that it's wrong to celebrate the day. There are certainly worse things a religious Jew can do than celebrate Thanksgiving. But to me, it's totally irrelevant. It's someone else's holiday. I would no more make a festive meal for Thanksgiving than for Easter or Kwanzaa or Eid al-Adha.
One comment asked, "Why does aliya have to be all or nothing? First people tell them to make aliya with the assurance
that they won't miss anything they have here, then once they do, they
criticise them because they speak English too much, or have too many
chutz-nik friends, or have a "golus mentality", or want to keep any
traditions frum chutz laAretz. I think it should be enough that they
made aliya... let them travel the journey at their own pace."
As I said, in recent decades, I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving in America either,so for me, the two things are not connected. But since the point was raised, I'd like to address it.
I live in Israel and, despite the considerable amount of time I've invested in learning Hebrew, I speak English 98% of the time. I read English books and raise charitable contributions in my community (more than NIS10,000 so far) through the sale of used English books. I have no Israeli friends, except those who also speak English. There are things I still import from the US, either because they are cheaper there or simply not available here. I miss Chinese food, WalMart, the Baltimore County Public Library and free shipping from amazon.com.
I will always be an American immigrant and my kids, who came as teens, probably will be as well, albeit to a lesser extent. I am completely, totally and unapologetically okay with these realities and I am singularly uninterested in the criticism of anyone who thinks that I am not doing aliyah right.
And there is still no pumpkin pie in my oven today.