Celebrating Thanksgiving Can Save America

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by R. Gil Student

Halakhic authorities debate whether celebrating Thanksgiving is permissible. Assuming it is permissible, it is also a good thing.

In The Home We Build Together, R. Jonathan Sacks argues that multiculturalism is destroying Western countries. When everyone clings exclusively to their ethnic heritage, there is no common culture to bind all members of the country together. There is no common language that everyone speaks and universally accepted morality that everyone observes. There is no cohesion between social groups.

To solve this problem, R. Sacks suggests that we need a covenant, an agreement to work together for mutual benefit because otherwise society will collapse. Part of this covenant is a national culture that includes a basic language of morality and patriotism. Before multiculturalism, there was a monoculturalism. Everyone had to either assimilate into the majority or remain an outsider to society. That model will not work anymore. Instead, what we need is a bare-bones national culture that transcends, and does not clash with, individual ethnic cultures to facilitate social cohesion.

Part of creating, or reviving, a national culture is promoting non-sectarian holidays, universal celebrations that tell a story about the history and values of the country. These facilitate the shared morality and language, and promote loyalty to the country and to those who are part of the shared culture.

In other words, celebrating Thanksgiving and what it stands for is part of conquering multiculturalism and reestablishing a basic morality in this country. So eat up that turkey and enjoy the cranberry sauce.

(Reposted from 2009)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

4 comments

  1. “R. Jonathan Sacks argues that multiculturalism is destroying Western countries. When everyone clings exclusively to their ethnic heritage, there is no common culture to bind all members of the country together. There is no common language that everyone speaks and universally accepted morality that everyone observes.”

    One can argue that it is precisely multiculturalism which enables frum Jews to be accepted. We don’t accept the fundamental beliefs of the vast majority of the US population.

    • Jews did OK in the US before multiculturalism became a thing. Maybe better, some might argue.

      • From Wikipedia “As a philosophy, multiculturalism began as part of the pragmatism movement at the end of the nineteenth century in Europe and the United States, then as political and cultural pluralism at the turn of the twentieth. It was partly in response to a new wave of European imperialism in sub-Saharan Africa and the massive immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans to the United States and Latin America. Philosophers, psychologists and historians and early sociologists such as Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, George Santayana, Horace Kallen, John Dewey, W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke developed concepts of cultural pluralism, from which emerged what we understand today as multiculturalism. In Pluralistic Universe (1909), William James espoused the idea of a “plural society.” James saw pluralism as “crucial to the formation of philosophical and social humanism to help build a better, more egalitarian society”

        I do not believe that Jews and Judaism were more accepted in US Society before multiculturalism became big in US more than 100 years ago than now.

        • Wikipedia is citing some thinkers who had some views. In practical terms, multiculturalism became a “thing” in the US no earlier than the 1960’s, and perhaps as late as the 1980’s. Jews were pretty well accepted in the US from the colonial era, and they weren’t doing badly in the 1950’s, say.

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