Israel and Hamas remain locked in a destructive, deadly war in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which resulted in 1,400 people, mostly civilians, being killed. The death toll included the slaughter of at least 260 people attending a music festival. In addition, over 200 people were kidnapped and were still being held hostage as of this writing.
With the war dragging on and deaths and casualties mounting on both sides, and no end in sight, it may be tough for American Jews to even think about this month’s Thanksgiving holiday, and that’s understandable.
Yet an argument can be made that in the midst of the horror and nonstop carnage coming out of the Mideast, observing Thanksgiving is more important than ever. Why? Because, in these polarizing times, it’s one of the few traditions that most Americans celebrate regardless of their ethnicity, religion, race or politics.
Over the years, I’ve had to explain to co-workers, including many who had known me for a while, that, yes, American Jews celebrate Thanksgiving. I’d always be quick to answer that since it’s a quintessential American holiday, and Jews who are U.S. citizens are also Americans, that we most definitely celebrate it.
Thanksgiving also has always been one of my favorite holidays, which is why, as another Turkey Day approaches, I’d like to share, in no particular order, 10 reasons why I’ll still give thanks on Nov. 23:
1. Enjoying the comfort of my two pets, cat Cooper and dog Buddy. Especially at this time, while our brains and psyches are trying to process the unimaginable and horrific sights and events in Israel, just being able to have my cat on my lap and my dog next to me soothes my soul.
2. Having two adult daughters home for Thanksgiving, especially since this will be the first one in 22 years that neither will be a student. Since the graduation of Alana, 22, from Johnson & Wales University in May, she and daughter Arianna, 27, are both living on their own, and that’s a milestone worthy of gratitude.
3. Living in a house that hasn’t been damaged by the floods, wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes that have plagued the nation this year. In addition, we should be incredibly grateful that our homes and apartments haven’t become collateral damage in the wars that rage on in the Mideast and Ukraine.
4. Having good neighbors who respect and look out for one another. That has always been a real source of comfort in the 30 years that my wife, Lynne, and I have lived in our North Attleboro neighborhood.
5. Living in a country where we’re able to elect our leaders and decide on local issues, such as whether to fund new schools with taxpayers’ dollars. Far too many people tend to take such freedoms for granted, but no one should.
6. Not having to think about going to supermarkets and pharmacies to get the food, supplies and medications we need. That freedom of movement becomes even more precious when you think of the people of Gaza, who have been virtually locked down since the war began, and the people of Israel, who live in constant fear of rockets raining down.
7. Being in relatively good health – minus some kvetchy aches and pains that go along with aging.
8. The many freedoms, especially freedom of religion, that Americans enjoy. Having terrorists slaughter people for being Jewish makes you feel extremely fortunate to live in a country where the majority of people still appear tolerant of minorities.
9. Having the support system of friends and family members to lean on in good and tough times.
10. A free press—Last, but not least, I remain incredibly grateful that we live in a country that still guarantees a free press. Those who insist on demonizing all journalists – including those at such community publications as Jewish Rhode Island and hundreds of smaller daily newspapers that are the only source of important happenings – are way off base. Those areas of coverage that are neglected by the bigger news outlets include local government meetings and elections, community events, local obituaries and high school sports.
If you’re one of those who wish harm on local reporters, editors and writers, I refer to these two statements famously made by the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson:
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
“No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, no one ever will.”
LARRY KESSLER (email@example.com) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.