Many might have sat down already to their meals on this holiday, but whether you choose to ponder or engage these questions as part of the experience at your Thanksgiving table or at a later time, here are some questions. Some are particular to American Jews and some are relevant to everyone in this great country of ours. These questions were developed by my seniors at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, the members of the Jewish Leadership Initiative. Our hope is that these questions lead to some stimulating discussion and can go beyond the simple “What are you thankful for?” query. Happy Thanksgiving.
1. Think back to the Pilgrims—who they were, why they came. As Jews living in America in the modern era, what do we have in common with the Pilgrims? Is America still the same haven for those seeking refuge from religious persecution and how do we look at it 240 years after the USA was founded?
2. There’s no Israeli holiday that recognizes the process of Aliyah (immigration to Israel). Why? Did the early Olim (immigrants) go through the same sort of journey as the American Pilgrims? How about modern day Olim from either the U.S. or Europe? How does their journey compare to that of the Pilgrims or of earlier Olim?
3. How did you get here? At some point, your ancestors (or you) lived in Europe, Israel, Africa, or somewhere else. Share their (your) story with the group. How does it impact you and how are you thankful this year for the lives and journeys of your family members?
4. Are you pilgrim? What journeys have you made—real or metaphorical—over the past year that have shaped who you are as a person? Have you completed the journey? Are you proud of what you have accomplished as a result of completing the journey? What’s next?