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Jewesses with Attitude

“Do Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?”

"Do Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?" a friend's Catholic grandmother asked her the other day. "Of course, they do," she replied, rolling her eyes. Indeed, in many American Jewish families, Thanksgiving is observed with nearly as much sacredness as (in some cases, even more than) the High Holidays. Most of us are only a few generations removed from the immigrant experience, and Thanksgiving holds a special place in the hearts of immigrants.

StoryCorps' idea of a National Day of Listening (instead of a national day of shopping) captures part of what makes Thanksgiving so meaningful to American Jews. I plan to spend time on Friday listening to my elderly parents talk - and will use JWA's 20 questions to ask the important women in your life when it's my mother's turn.

It saddens me to think that Hilda Meltzer's children will not have that chance. Fortunately for all of us, Hilda who died last weekend at the age of 92, wrote down the story of her life and shared some of the highlights with me in a series of phone calls last fall while she was still healthy and independent. I never met Hilda, but I learned a great deal about this woman who worked for 21 years as an assertiveness trainer at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. She described her retirement activities this way: "collage and memoir, volunteer, as always, for peace, civil, women's and minority rights."

She had heard we were interested in documenting the experiences of American Jewish women during WW II and sent me an outline of her unpublished autobiography, Short Tales of a Long Life. Her summary of the chapter that begins in August of 1942, when her husband Milton (who survives her) was drafted, is typical: "I train for and become a lathe operator in a war factory after I'd supported myself by modeling since 1935. Frivolous work but all I could find during the Depression." When the manuscript itself arrived, I read and enjoyed every word. Together we began planning for her nephew, a public radio producer, to record her stories. He never got the chance, but I am so grateful that I can read her words and summon up the sound of her voice on the phone just a few months ago -she was so delighted to find a person, and a place, eager to collect and share her stories. I've never felt more grateful for the existence of the Jewish Women's Archive than I did talking to Hilda Meltzer.

6 Comments

<div> </div><div>Not only is it not Politically Correct to describe American Jews as being Anti-American, it is plainly not correct. Go back to posting on the Aryan nation blog where your small-minded views will be appreciated. </div><div> </div><div>There is nothing wrong with being a leftist. All the moronic right wing garbage that I hear these days makes me want to be a leftist. Good job!</div><div> </div><div> </div>

What an interesting comment.

I don't think I know any Jews in this country who don't celebrate Thanksgiving. More to the original point, to my Grandfather--my father's father (and to his children and to me), in particular, Thanksgiving was probably more sacred than Yom Kippur, because to him, this was the country that ensured that he and his kids and grandkids could grow up with the pogroms of the shtetl near Kiev from which his father had fled. My grandfather was the first in our family born in this country and he was forever grateful.

As to it not being PC to say that "Most Jews in the US ... are radical leftists who despise the very existence of the United States", well, in this country, it is politically correct to say whatever one chooses--that's what the Bill of Rights and Free Speech are all about. As it happens, what you typed may be politically correct in that sense, but it is also factually incorrect in a big way.

It is sad that so much of this country's political discourse has become colored by emotion and prejudice--the sort of discussion that leads people to find "death panels" in the health care bill that is currently being proposed--something that doesn't remotely exist, not in the bill, not in the current discussion.

The bias and ignorance of this preceding comment are also not a new thing. When Lillian Wald began fighting to make health care accessible to new Americans at the turn of the last century, there was no shortage of hysteria then, either. She managed to succeed. The question before us is whether there are women (or men) today who are able to look at the facts as they actually are--to become FC--Factually Correct--see the need for health care reform now, and act effectively to bring it about.

Most jews in the US do not celebrate thanksgiving because most jews in the US are radical leftists who despise the very existence of the United States. I know this isn't PC to say, but it's a fact---just ask the Ginsbergs. And they are just the tip of the iceburg (get it? ice-burg? burg? get it?)

Hi Ellen,Thank you so much for posting about StoryCorpsÌ¢‰â‰㢠National Day of Listening! Support like this means so much to the organization, and your friend HildaÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s remarkable story is such a touching and powerful embodiment of what this day was all about. After the overwhelming response to the National Day of Listening, we are hoping to pass on a new holiday idea: For everyone who did an interview surrounding the National Day of Listening (or are thinking about recording a loved one), making a copy of it and pairing it with a paperback copy of our book, Ì¢‰âÒListening is an Act of Love,Ì¢‰âÂå adds a meaningful touch to gift-giving, and gives that special someone even more incredible stories to read! One of the stories from our book, about what a hospital chaplain discovered as she blessed the hands of her coworkers, was broadcast this morning. You can listen at: http://www.storycorps.net/list.... The book as well as more DIY recording tips can be linked to at www.storycorps.net. Thanks again and best wishes for the New Year!AmyStoryCorps

My father's father was the first of his siblings born in this country. He grew up a member of the generation that was quite happy to leave most Jewish observance behind. For him, and for many of his siblings, Thanksgiving was =the= holiday. Despite growing up in poverty and then beginning his own family during the Depression, he felt that this country was the promised land, and that Thanksgiving exemplified his feeling towards not fearing pogroms in his daily life. It feels very strange, a generation later, to realize that now I am the middle-aged person he was when I first talked with him about his life. But where I recorded with pen and paper, our children now record on their cellphones or video players. I hope their memories remain as clear as mine, but that their mp3s and mpegs survive better than the pages we so carefully stored I no longer no where.

Of course jews celebrate thanksgiving. what a ridiculous question. ignorance isn't as bad as anti-semitism but come on..

steve http://www.myglobalmatch.com

How to cite this page

Rothman, Ellen K.. "“Do Jews celebrate Thanksgiving?” ." 25 November 2008. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 29, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/do-jews-celebrate-thanksgiving>.

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Thank you for writing such a passionate and important book!
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And we just mentioned the book in a post on the history of abortion access: https://t.co/YatTU2gqN7