By Shari Churwin
There’s something particularly Jewish about Thanksgiving and quintessentially American at the same time. Thanksgiving brings us together. This year, the Jewish/American connection is even stronger as we light the second candle of Hanukkah on Thanksgiving. Football, turkey and latkes…oh my!
I know you’re not going to believe this, but the Hebrew word for “turkey” and “to thank” are the same: hodu. Also, the original pilgrim Thanksgiving Day was modeled on the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot, which we celebrated just last month. Even as you look at the English word, “thanksgiving,” you can see two essentially Jewish elements: thanks and giving. The very American holiday of Thanksgiving even fits into the general summary of virtually all Jewish holidays: They tried to kill us (in this case “they” was the harsh winter), we survived, let’s eat! Yes, Thanksgiving is a very Jewish holiday indeed.
At this time of year, giving thanks comes in many different forms. I am reminded that, as Jews, we are supposed to live each day with what Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel called “an attitude of gratitude.” Our task as parents is to find our own unique ways to teach this to our children and to find the 100 blessings in each and every day.
We each have personal reasons that we are thankful. We need to model this attitude for our children by counting our blessings out loud for all to appreciate. My children—twins ages 7 and daughter age 10—sometimes (well, let’s be honest, often!) need reminders that not everyone can put a bountiful turkey dinner on their table. Both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah give us a real opportunity to show our children how to give back to the community. Why not use canned goods as Thanksgiving table decorations and then donate them to your favorite food bank or women’s shelter? I’m sure you can find your own unique ways to give back with your children, family and friends.
As my family and I sit down to a delicious Hanukkah dinner on Thanksgiving afternoon, we will each share our blessings and remind one another how truly lucky we are.
Shari Churwin is the education director at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline. Shari is dedicated to exploring ways in which Jewish values can be integrated into our daily lives and creating a learning environment in which each individual child, and his or her family, can grow to their fullest potential. Shari and her husband, Mike, live in Brookline with their three beautiful daughters.