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)