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November Traditions

This November we are privileged to celebrate two great American traditions, Thanksgiving and governmental elections. The whole democratic election represents much of what we, as Jews should be thankful for on Thanksgiving. In our own tradition, there is a lot for which to be thankful to God. We thank God when we eat, pray and study. We thank God when we have a simcha, a happy occasion. We also thank God when we are healed. Thanksgiving on the other hand is our opportunity to be thankful for the lives we live today in America. The elections are behind us, and we can be thankful for what will be the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.

On Thanksgiving, what we are really thankful for is the liberty to live our lives as we please. This is the case no matter who is president. We are thankful that our country was founded on the premise that all people are created equal. As Jews we greatly benefit from the freedom of religion. We are able to impact openly upon our nation without fear of oppression or expulsion. One of the best examples is our freedom to participate fully in the democratic process.

For as long as we have had this voting procedure, Jews have participated in it. There is a famous letter to President George Washington from the elders of the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, written on August 17, 1790. George Washington had just been elected the first President of the United States in April, 1789. In the letter, the elders express exactly these freedoms that they now enjoyed in this new country. They wrote:

"Deprived as we have hitherto been of the invaluable rights of free citizens, we now, with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty Disposer of all events, behold a government erected by the majesty of the people, a government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to all liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship, deeming every one, of whatever nation, tongue or language, equal parts of the great governmental machine" (The Jew in the Modern World. Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehudah Reinharz, Ed.)

Like the members of the Hebrew Congregation in Rhode Island, I hope we comprehend the privileges we have in America. I pray that as a nation we will now be able to move forward. This Thanksgiving let us pause to give thanks for what is truly important in our lives. We can surely be thankful for the foresight of our founding fathers, which created a nation conceived in liberty, under God.

Shabbat Shalom

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