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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Title: The Thanksgiving Ceremony, New Traditions for America’s Family Feast

Title: The Thanksgiving Ceremony, New Traditions for America’s Family Feast
Author: Edward Bleier – with foreword by William Safire
Publisher: Crown Publishers, imprint of Random House, New York, NY

 

 

There is a public high school located in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section that is named after 19th-century educator Sarah J. Hale. We are indebted to her for her efforts to have Thanksgiving Day officially declared a national holiday.

This was in Abraham Lincoln’s time, and Hale, also a crusader for education for women, used her influential magazine, Lady’s Book, to crusade in advocacy for her cause. President Lincoln took up the cause and asked the nation to observe “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to Almighty G-d, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”

With so many other holidays – and our weekly Shabbat – for family and communal observance, what is our response to this secular holiday? Many in our community consider this holiday alien to Jewish religious observance. They feel that Thanksgiving was never designed to be a secular holiday, as it has become to many. It is actually a trans-religious observance for all ethnic and religious communities who wish to observe it.

Many people in America have secularized our holidays, Jewish and non-Jewish. Even our prime national holidays of Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day have become stripped of their original purpose, and simply become days to watch football or baseball and go shopping in store malls.

In the words of Mr. Safire, Edward Bleier, an executive at Warner Bros. Co., Thanksgiving is “not merely a family holiday, but the holiday of families.” It is a day when Americans come together to break bread and dine on turkey with all the trimmings together with family by marriage or by friendship. They have an opportunity to be connected in friendship and fellowship that crosses generational boundaries.”

Bleier’s book proposes some formality for the event for those who choose to observe it, including special blessings and readings for members of the assembled party. The recitations memorialize the origins, with the Pilgrims and their native-American hosts; a brief history of the origins of the holiday; and provides quotations from many sources. A complete list of the passengers of the Mayflower is given – with the information that almost a quarter of all Americans are deemed descendent from them.

Americans are not alone in dedicating an official observance of a national day of thanksgiving. The book notes that Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia and Switzerland also have their own observances – although not necessarily on the same day as our observance.

This is a very interesting little book that fits in the palm of your hand and has a cover price of just $14 (U.S.) As the leaves turn red and winter is in the air, this book will provide a heartwarming and informative information on a widely celebrated American holiday.

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