November!!! Remember when you were a kid, how excited you were when November arrived? We had a day off for Election Day! Two days off for theTeachers’ Convention! A day off for Veterans Day! And, 2 days off for Thanksgiving. Couldn’t be better! Our files at the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey are replete with photos, documents, and testimonials of veterans of several wars. We have correspondence from soldiers to their families which is a stark reminder of worrisome times. We are home to photos from schools in Paterson, Passaic, and Clifton including some yearbooks as well as fraternity and sorority photos. Included in our school pictures are recent pictures of class reunions. And of course, our archives include correspondence and photos of leading North Jersey political leaders.
Thanksgiving, the all American holiday! Americans of different religions and different places of origins, join in the celebration of Thanksgiving. It is truly an AMERICAN CELEBRATION. It is interesting when shopping for the holiday to notice the myriad of languages as shoppers scramble for the makings of Thanksgiving dinners.
Some have claimed that the Pilgrims observed a day of thanksgiving following their harvest because it is written in the Bible (in Leviticus and Deuteronomy) to thank God for the bounty. Some scholars believe that Thanksgiving was based on the harvest holiday of Succot. Diana Muir Applebaum, Massachusetts historian, traced a Pilgrim thanksgiving celebration to December 1621. The Puritans actually debated whether it was proper to declare a day of thanksgiving every autumn. Should they have a thanksgiving observance even if they had an ordinary harvest? Was the harvest a gift from the Divine? She does not believe they based the celebration on the Bible, but rather on the human desire to show gratitude.
On the other hand, Rabbi Elias Lieberman of Falmouth, Massachusetts, argues that indeed the Pilgrims were influenced by the Bible since they were very knowledgeable about the text of the scriptures. It is interesting that during the Civil War, the southerners associated Thanksgiving with the abolitionists and did not celebrate the holiday until the end of the 19th century. As Rabbi Lieberman points out, whether the origin was our thanksgiving observance of Succot, or a Pilgrim desire to thank God after having suffered in their first years in the New World, is now moot. What does remain is the human desire to acknowledge our blessings.
Our blessings come in many ways—whether it is being thankful for getting up and beginning a new day—or grateful for health—grateful for family etc. etc. We, at the Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey are overflowing with gratitude! We have crossed the river to our new HOME! Our treasures, our photos, our artifacts, our archives from Paterson, Clifton, Wayne, New Milford, North Bergen, Fair Lawn, Teaneck etc., etc. are no longer in a rented space in an inconvenient location. They have all been moved to our very own space! Many volunteers worked tirelessly to make this happen. We are grateful for their hard work and tenacity. Yes, everyday is a day of thanksgiving. Join us on November 22 at 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. as we proudly and gratefully affix OUR mezuzah on OUR door in OUR OFFICE at 17-10 River Road in Fair Lawn, NJ.
In our busy lives, there is always time to be thankful!
Miriam Kraemer Gray, Vice President, Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey