Dear Rabbi Simon,
I noticed on EdgwareK [the electronic community Bulletin Board] that you held an Indian Thanksgiving Dinner last week. I was under the impression that Thanksgiving is a Christian festival. If so, why and how can an Orthodox synagogue celebrate it? I am Just Wondering
Thank you for your query/comment/objection.
Thanksgiving is an American civic festival rooted in the concept of thanking G-d for the bounty and benefits which He bestows. It is true that its origins go back to the Pilgrims (in the 17th c.), who were religious Christians. However as a national holiday 200 years after the Pilgrims came up with the idea, it is a secular rather than a religious (and certainly not a Christian) festival. And it goes without saying that the notion of gratitude for divine blessings is in complete sympathy with Jewish thought. (Though of course such an impulse should not be limited to one day a year.)
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11), as well as others, have validated its celebration insofar as halakhah is concerned. For more on this topic, visit http://www.tfdixie.com/special/thanksg.htm.
By the way, our “Hodu LaShem” Thanksgiving Indian Friday Night was a great success.
Rabbi Rashi Simon