Unambivalent about Thanksgiving

Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer is “ambivalent” about Thanksgiving (“Why I am ambivalent about Thanksgiving,” November 12). One of his concerns is “whether America has been as good to Judaism as it has been to the Jews.” He observes that “America has been really good for the Jews…but not necessarily for Judaism.”

How sad, indeed tragic, that in his lengthy piece Rabbi Engelmayer does not once mention the Torah.

America has not been good for Judaism?

What about the rise in yeshivot, and day schools, and chassidut, the availability of Torah study (such as the Art Scroll Schottenstein Talmud, just as an example) which has fostered the enormous growth in Torah study that America has experienced just in the past 30 years?

What about the enormous increase in Torah learning and Torah scholarship? Even as neutral a source as Wikipedia recognizes that Jewish education is the transmission of the tenets, principles, and religious laws of Judaism. Jews value education, and the value of education is strongly embedded in Jewish culture. Judaism places a heavy emphasis on Torah study, from the early days of studying the Tanakh until now.

Just to offer a very brief overview of one very important organization, look at the services offered in America by the Agudath Israel of America Organization.

Agudath Israel of America, founded in 1922 to serve as Orthodox Jewry’s umbrella organization, is the arm and voice of American Orthodox Jewry. With national and DC offices, and regional branches serving the entire country, Agudath Israel — also called Agudas Yisroel or the Agudah — advocates for its constituents at federal, state, and local levels. The Agudah and its many divisions provide social, educational, and youth services to its constituents, continuing a century-long tradition of championing the evolving needs of Orthodox Jewish life in America.

Over the past decades, Agudath Israel of America has operated under the guidance and ongoing involvement of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, the Council of Torah Sages. Agudath Israel of America is keenly attuned to the American Jewish community’s challenges and triumphs, and has helped our communities grow, thrive, and advance through changing times.

The OU (Union of Orthodox Congregations) and many organizations offer similar services in these United States of America.

America has not been good for Judaism?

America has been fantastic for Judaism, Rabbi Englemayer, and fantastic for the growth of Torah and a Torah life.

Thanksgiving certainly is not a rabbinically ordained day of thanks. It is an opportunity to appreciate the great gifts of this country to all of its people and to the Jews and Judaism, and Torah growth, in particular.

Rabbi Engelmayer, it is perhaps an opportunity for you to take a fresh look at what it means to be Jewish in America, and to quote a famous Irishman, “how sweet it is!”

Chag sameach.

Avi Borenstein

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