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A Time to Give Thanks
Thanksgiving is a holiday virtually all Americans observe and enjoy. And yet, there is still a lingering doubt on the part of some as to the role that religion can or should play in the festivities.
That is a particularly interesting conundrum for religious minorities such as Jews, who rightly seek to maintain a distinction between the faith of the majority and the sanction of the state.
The irony is that the secular observance of Thanksgiving is, in large measure, a commemoration of the faith of some of the original European settlers on this continent, who were anything but pluralists in their view of religion or politics. New England's Puritans saw no distinction between their religion and their politics.
Though deeply Christian in its historical roots, the Thanksgiving we observe this week is not about a particular religion.
Rather, it is to President Abraham Lincoln, who helped establish the holiday formally, that we should look for guidance on this score. Profoundly religious in his view of the world, Lincoln nevertheless scorned sectarianism. He managed to incorporate religious faith into his philosophy of government, but found no need to identify it with any denomination.
As such, the day should make us mindful of the particular blessing that America has been to the Jews who have found freedom and prosperity here like no other place in the Diaspora. There is no better time for American Jews to express their love and gratitude to our Creator for the bounties that have been ours in the United States.