Reasons to say thanks

Reasons to say thanks

Yesterday, most Jewish Americans joined the broader community in celebrating Thanksgiving, a secular holiday that has its roots in the festival of Sukkot, the Jewish festival of thanksgiving.

As Jews living in the United States, we have much for which to be thankful. We live in a society that allows us to be equal partners with equal opportunities. Jews attain some of the highest offices in the land, either by election or appointment. They are leaders in virtually all fields of American life. A Jew even came within a hair’s breadth of being a heartbeat away from the highest office, the presidency, when Joe Lieberman and Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000.

Because we are free to be ourselves, we feel free to bring Jewish values into our national debates, and Jews help lead the way in battles for the rights of others here, and around the globe.

It was not always thus, but it is that way now, and if we remain vigilant, it will remain so well into the future. It is a gift we must never take lightly, and for which we must always be thankful.

Holiday parity is a bad idea.

Even before this week’s Thanksgiving holiday, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas on our streets and shopping malls. Each year, in fact, the Christmas buying season seems to begin ever earlier.

For some, this is a time to insist on parity. If there is a Christmas display, there should be a Chanukah display.

Parity is not warranted, and should not be sought. As much as it feels like an equalizer, parity has a serious downside.

Christmas is less a religious holiday today than it is an excuse for the rankest forms of commercialism. By the time you read this editorial, Internet news sites will be reporting on riots breaking out among crowds of early shoppers who braved a cold Thanksgiving night to get through department store doors at special midnight sales. That is not the way to mark what for scores of millions of people was the most momentous event in history.

Chanukah is a celebration of Jewish survival. It is about how a rebel army took to the hills and fought off an invasion by the most powerful army in the region, if not the world, at that time – and won. It is about the desire of Jews to live as Jews, and how that desire carried them to victory.

Parity would water down Chanukah the way Christmas has been diminished, and to some degree it already has. Far more meaningful than pushing our way through hordes of mall shoppers is gathering our families around a small eight-candle menorah and singing “Al Hanissim,” singing about all the miracles, including the greatest miracle of all – the miracle of our survival against all odds, “in those days at this time,” and even in our own time.