Sunday, November 20, 2005

Zionist Turkey?

Click Turkey for a Special Thanksgiving Message from the GodolHador.

Every year when I casually mention that I'm going home from work early for a "Thanksgiving" dinner, it blows someone's fuse. Its one thing to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, where there are very clear viewpoints on the matter.

There is a 3-way halachik argument between HRHG R' Feinstein, R' Soloveitchik, and R' Hutner about whether Thanksgiving is considered a holiday of the gentiles, and can one "celebrate" Thanksgiving. R' Soloveitchik held that Thanksgiving is religion-agnostic, thereby allowing an annual celebration including turkey dinner. R' Feinstein considered it a problem to celebrate a secular holiday, and permitted turkey dinner, but not a "celebration". R' Hutner considered it a full gentile holiday, and forbade turkey dinner and any celebration. My family in the US always held from R' Soloveitchik, and had an annual celebration, turkey and all.

An excellent roundup of the halachik issues can be found here and I would also suggest seeing Appendix A for an interesting postscript on Halloween.

Still, holding onto the Thanksgiving tradition in Israel is a completely different issue. Am I betraying the Zionist cause by celebrating an event that occurred between Gentile Pilgrims and Native American Indians in North America a few hundred years ago? What does Thanksgiving have to do with living in Israel today (if anything)? My friends in Israel who made aliya from Canada are totally against Thanksgiving, because its a totally Christian holiday in Canada, undertones, overtones, and gentile themes everywhere -- including a different date then US Thanksgiving.

Of course, the entire issue of Turkey being a kosher bird is fascinating; had it been discovered today instead of a few hundred years ago, you would be hard pressed to find an Orthodox Rabbi that would consider it Kosher.

This year, I have milluim, a wedding, and a Bar mitzva to go to, so I guess the point is moot unless we have turkey another day.

Thanksgiving on a Friday Eretz Yisrael.



Anonymous said...

Does celebrating with turkey shwarma make it a more acceptable zionistic celebration?

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Canadians objecting to Thanksgiving?
The Canadians i knew in Israel just made fun of us and claimed that while their Thanksgiving is a generic harvest festival, our Thanksgiving has negative Anti-Native undertones.

It was the British people who couldn't understand how we could have a pseudo-semi-religious civil holiday that wasn't Christian.

I don't think it's at all Anti-Zionist for American Israelis to celebrate Thanksgiving. After all, Zionism isn't about shelilat hagalut and thinking that everything non-Israeli is crap &mdash well, at least good real Zionism isn't about that. Zionism is about bringing all the varied Jewish cultures of the world back to the homeland, and Thanksgiving is part of American Jewry.

The only problem is finding proper pumpkin...

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian, I never could understand how American Jews celebrate Thanksgiving. In Canada, many non-religious don't celebrate it either

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Canuck: See? You've proved my point. Thanksgiving is a non-Christian holiday, that can be celebrated by everyone! Its religion-agnostic.

(provided you celebrate the US Thanksgiving and not the Canadian one...)

Steg: Well, I don't know if kibbuzt galuyot includes bringing back all the foreign cultures with them...does thank include the football games too?

Our pumpkin for the pie is always imported from the US. Butterntu squash (Delorit) just doesn't do it...

Avi said...

I am celebrating Thanksgiving. Albeit it'll be my Shabbat dinner which seems to be a common thread. I don't think American olim need to deny their American cultural heritage, which exists, even if we've only been in the US for 1 or 2 generations. In addition, American olim adjust and adapt their cultural traditions to the Israeli reality and we shouldn't deny that we are an immigrant group just like the Russians, Ethiopians, Mizrahim from all their different countries etc. Why should we deny ourselves what we embrace/permit to everyone else?

OTOH, I understand your comments about the Canadians. I'm personally somewhat uncomfortable with New Years ("Sylvester") in Israel whereas I'm not uncomfortable with it in the US where it has no religious overtones.

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