Saturday, December 27, 2014 Tevet 5, 5775

A Hearty Thank You

November 23, 2011
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We Jews are no stranger to the notion of giving thanks. The observant among us recite such blessings many times each day, beginning with a morning prayer thanking God for enabling us to wake up. For others, prayerful thanks come somewhat less frequently, perhaps with a blessing over a Shabbat meal or a Shehecheyanu, expressing appreciation for having reached a special moment or milestone.

Whatever the form, Judaism is replete with occasions to express gratitude for the blessings -- large and small -- in our lives.

Many of those blessings derive from the opportunities we experience as Americans, which is what makes Thanksgiving a particularly meaningful holiday.

At a time when the world is rife with war, revolution and famine, we are reminded how lucky we are to live in a free and democratic society where religious and political liberties prevail.

Our country is far from perfect, and there is justifiable angst over economic insecurities and political paralysis, but the basic freedoms and opportunities that we -- as Americans and as Jews -- take for granted should not be underestimated.

We are experiencing unprecedented opportunities, some of which didn't even exist a generation or two ago: The opportunity to pursue nearly any educational or professional dream. The opportunity to find community among a wide array of vibrant and dynamic Jewish offerings. The opportunity to give back to society in a myriad of ways.

Thanksgiving is one of the few national holidays that Americans, regardless of religious or national background, can experience in both a collective and personal way.

It reminds us that, like the Pilgrims who landed here centuries ago, we are a nation of immigrants. We are indebted to our ancestors, who chose to journey to this land of opportunity, who in many cases sacrificed their own lives to enable their progeny to find a better future.

Because of their foresight, and the hard labor that followed, we enjoy an environment of unprecedented communal prosperity and personal security, a place where we can speak our minds and make our mark.

Though our numbers are tiny -- less than 2 percent of the population -- our footprint is large. We can be proud of our minority status in this country, knowing the disproportionate contributions we have made to every aspect of society.

So let's take advantage of the moment to bask in the warmth of this uniquely American holiday. It's a moment that passes all too swiftly as the winter holiday season begins to take over, reminding us of our cultural differences -- of what divides rather than unites us.

So, let's give thanks -- and have a happy holiday! 

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