In the forty-three years since we got married, boarded the Greek Lines Santa Maria "sailed away" and made aliyah to Israel, only once did we have a "Thanksgiving" meal. It was a few years ago when one of our neighbors decided to organize a "Thanksgiving potluck" dinner. Everybody contributed. It was fun getting together, but there was nothing very "thanks to the USA" on the program.
A few years after our aliyah, when we were doing Jewish Zionist youth work in England an American friend mentioned that she was having trouble finding cranberry sauce (or was it bright orange yams?) And I asked her why she was looking for them.
"Thanksgiving!"That's the truth. Now with the internet I'm very aware of Thanksgiving since so many people write about it on facebook or blog about it. And this year especially, since Chanukah and Thanksgiving are at the same time there's even more about it in the media than ever before. Also on facebook I've been reading of the plans of some cousins. A few decades ago it was much, much easier to be unaware of that American Holiday.
"Oops! I had never given it a thought since we left the states."
When I was "an American" our Thanksgiving was pure family, not patriotism. I don't even remember the food, just the crowd of cousins, plus some aunts and uncles. I remember the joy and the jokes. Without my cousins there's no Thanksgiving.
Should Jews be celebrating Thanksgiving? Is it a Jewish Holiday?
As I remember, the holiday is to celebrate the Pilgrims, early European
WASPs, white Anglo Saxon Protestants were the ideal American until a few decades ago. For the ideal American, "color" meant rosy cheeks. John F. Kennedy, as popular as became after his assassination, almost didn't get elected didn't get elected United States President, because he was a Catholic, and that was just half a century ago.
|President Coolidge signs|
the immigration act
I have no doubt that barely two decades later when the United States did its best to keep its doors carefully locked and rejected many Jews fleeing Germany that the same people and mentality ruled America.
The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act (Pub.L. 68–139, 43 Stat. 153, enacted May 26, 1924), was a United States federal law that limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890, down from the 3% cap set by the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921, according to the Census of 1890. It superseded the 1921 Emergency Quota Act. The law was aimed at further restricting the Southern and Eastern Europeans, among them Jews who had migrated in large numbers since the 1890s to escape persecution in Poland and Russia, as well as prohibiting the immigration of Middle Easterners, East Asians, and Indians. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian the purpose of the act was "to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity". Congressional opposition was minimal.
The events of 1938 caused a dramatic increase in Jewish emigration. The German annexation of Austria in March, the increase in personal assaults on Jews during the spring and summer, the nationwide Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom in November, and the subsequent seizure of Jewish-owned property all caused a flood of visa applications. Although finding a destination proved difficult, about 36,000 Jews left Germany and Austria in 1938 and 77,000 in 1939.Compare those numbers to the estimated six million 6,000,000 who were murdered directly or indirectly by the Nazis.
The sudden flood of emigrants created a major refugee crisis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt convened a conference in Evian, France, in July 1938. Despite the participation of delegates from 32 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, and Australia, only the Dominican Republic agreed to accept additional refugees. The plight of German-Jewish refugees, persecuted at home and unwanted abroad, is also illustrated by the voyage of the "St. Louis."
The Jews who made it to America and succeeded to make their lives better were lucky, but they must remember that the USA didn't encourage or facilitate their immigration. They succeeded despite the United States Government.
I have nothing against family and friends getting together. I even like eating turkey. But I think that the Jewish commitment to thank the United States sometimes goes too far.
And don't forget that the American decision to join in the war against the Nazis had absolutely nothing to do with saving Jews.