Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I think I wrote on another blog that I'd have a post about Thanksgiving, but I got busy, so sorry it's late.
When I was growing up we all celebrated Thanksgiving and took it for granted. All of a sudden it's a subject of controversy, with many haredim saying it's not kosher. Not kosher to thank God for the blessings we enjoy in this country? Crazy. But we should be accustomed to haredi craziness by now. It comes down to whether or not we American Jews consider ourselves Americans. Jews in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and the other hellholes of Eastern Europe did not consider themselves Poles, Lithuanians, Russians and so forth, and neither did the Gentiles in those countries. Often they were not even literate in the languages of the countries they had been living in for centuries. Indeed, the Yeshiva of Volozhin closed down rather than teach students Russian, i.e. teach the Russian language, not teach Torah in Russian. That is the mindset that the detractors of Thanksgiving are acting upon. And it is not our mindset. We consider ourselves Americans in every sense. And so do our Gentile neighbors. We pay taxes, serve on juries, vote in American elections and so forth. American Jews served proudly in uniform in all of America's wars; the Holocaust museum in Battery Park in Manhattan contains an exhibit dedicated to American Jews who fought in World War II (one of them was my father a"h). In fact, when Asser Levy and his group of 23 first settled in New Amsterdam, the Dutch authorities proposed a special tax in lieu of guard duty. Asser Levy basically told them to take their tax and shove it; the Jews would do guard duty along with everybody else. And so they did. So yes, I do celebrate Thanksgiving, without apologies. And I eat turkey, in accordance with the majority opinion that it is kosher (al ha-rishonim anu mitzta'arim. . . .).
But we've been taking too much for granted. Recent events in Jewish life make me give some thought to what we have to be thankful for, so let me list a few:
1. No policeman will ever come to my door to search for banned books. I am free to read and study whatever I wish.
2. Short of indecent exposure, no "religious police" will ever arrest me for the way I am dressed. I am free to run in America's streets and parks in short pants and a sleeveless top (yup, Jews have muscles, get used to it). If my daughter chooses to go out wearing pants, that is her business and not that of the cops (yeshiva spies are another matter, but that's another tale).
3. Our women will not be pushed into a burning building because they are not sufficiently veiled, as was the case in Saudi Arabia a few years back.
4. Anybody can sit anywhere he or she pleases on a public bus.
5. Anybody who takes it on himself to set fire to a store or pour bleach on a woman's clothing can expect to be arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison.
6. We have the courage to stand up for our rights and freedoms, and even when we make aliya, we bring American values. Hence, we will not sit still for the shenanigans of those who would impose their medieval shtetl mentality on the rest of us.

I hope all of you had a happy Thanksgiving and I wish you a happy (and non-controversial?) Hanukkah.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thu Nov 29, 03:00:00 AM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

English please.

Thu Nov 29, 06:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

I don't get it. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was something people just did. There's no religious connotations to it save personal ones of saying thanks to God for His goodness to us. It's a turkey dinner people, for crying out loud. How can that be wrong?

Sun Dec 02, 12:24:00 PM EST  
Blogger Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

By the way, your first post is in Portuguese and is an ad for some service called Crescenet or something like that.

Sun Dec 02, 12:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

I don’t see what the big deal is either. But for those who don’t consider themselves Americans it raises issues of behukoteihem lo telekhu. The concept of a national non-religious holiday is outside their universe.

Mon Dec 03, 11:13:00 PM EST  

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