Why Thanksgiving is this Jewish girl’s favorite holiday…
Ever since I was a little girl, there was no doubt what my favorite holiday was. Thanksgiving. Now, I would say that it really is a tie for number one… Thanksgiving tied with Purim. Now Purim was special because I was born on Purim in a leap year, meaning I was born in Adar II, when we add a whole extra month. So Purim always held a special place in my heart. But why Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving. A quintessential American holiday. A holiday that represents America and apple pie and all things patriotic. Maybe this doesn’t seem odd to you but you should know that my family is a little bit old country. Yes, we have been in America for many generations but Judaism always came first for us. Our family gatherings were always focused around Jewish holidays or Shabbat… except for Thanksgiving.
Being an outcast, being different, being that Jew kid in school did not do much for my cool factor. Not celebrating Xmas or telling my English teacher that the crucifix she hung in the classroom violated my rights did not endear me to my peers… but Thanksgiving… oh Thanksgiving was the one time of year that we were just like everyone else!
The turkey, the pies, visiting my father’s family in Rhode Island and my mother’s family in NYC, watching the parade, hearing my cousins talk about football… it was almost like I fit in! Not to mention that getting to travel out of Florida and see the leaves change and the snow fall gave me instant street cred on the playground.
I was… normal for a moment. I fit in. I had the American experience. It was one time I didn’t have to explain what I was celebrating and why and what I was eating!
But the thing is, I don’t mind all that. I don’t mind explaining why I don’t eat pork or milk and meat together or why I wear skirts or make matzah pizza for a week in April(ish). I love sharing my Judaism with everyone around me. I was telling someone about the struggles I had growing up in a place where I did not fit in nor feel welcome and he looked at me and said, “I bet that made you the strong person you are today.”
He is right. It did. And while Thanksgiving will always be my favorite holiday and my heart is full of amazing memories of the past 30 Thanksgivings, I will still treasure being different and a little odd. Why? Because kiruv and chinuch (outreach and education) is something that is so ingrained in me, something that I am passionate about.
It’s okay to want to share traditions and it’s okay to enjoy things that are maybe out of the scope of Judaism or your religion, just as it is okay to share new concepts or ideas with people who may have never encountered a Jew before. Trust me… they are out there… I’ve met a lot of them!
So at this time of thanks giving, I am thankful for the opportunity to educate and reach out to those who need clarity and information. I am thankful for the many beautiful years with my extended family in Rhode Island and I am thankful to get to go again this year. I am thankful for my whole family but most especially, my immediate family. I am thankful for my job that let’s me help Jews all over the world and also help the less fortunate in Colorado. I am thankful for my life and health and dear friends.
And I am thankful to you, my readers!