Now is the time of year when we celebrate all for which we are thankful for. It is important for us to take the opportunity to reflect and give thanks to the people in our lives who make such a difference.
When I think about Jewish Portland, I am filled with pride and gratitude. Again and again our community rises to the challenge. Just this past year we came together to support our Jewish family in Ukraine. We continue to fight the ugliness of antisemitism. And we learn more and more that collaboration enables us to accomplish far more in concert than acting alone. Thank you for supporting the Jewish Federation and our many agency partners.
In thinking about what we have done together, I am always grateful for those who care so much about ensuring Jewish tomorrows. Your dedication is the spark behind the ongoing work of strengthening Jewish life and helping people in need in Portland, Israel, and all over the world. The generosity and empathy I see every day is inspiring.
As we focus on the "good" the holiday brings, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the recent mass shootings in Colorado Springs and Chesapeake, Virginia. And, this morning, two bombs went off at bus stops in Jerusalem. I am angry and appalled by these cowardly attacks on innocent people who were doing nothing more than going about their everyday lives. Let us pause and think about them and their families and may we only see better days ahead.
How about I try to end on a more cheerful note? As I like to do each year, here are some fun facts about Thanksgiving (thank you Good Housekeeping):
- The town of Colchester, Connecticut canceled Thanksgiving in 1705 because they could not make pumpkin pies. The frigid weather prevented their usual shipment of liquid sugar. Thus, the townspeople decided to postpone the holiday for a week.
- In 1926, President Calvin Coolidge received a gift from Vinnie Joyce of Nitta Yuma, Mississippi. He sent President Coolidge a raccoon to be served at his Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, the president liked the animal and adopted it as a pet -- naming it Rebecca.
- Presidents originally had to declare Thanksgiving a holiday each year, up until Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863. However, earlier, Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize the holiday. He firmly believed in the separation of church and state. Since Thanksgiving involved prayer and reflection, he thought designating it a national holiday would violate the First Amendment.
- Thanksgiving has not always been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The holiday had been celebrated on the fourth Thursday since Abraham Lincoln officially recognized the federal holiday. However, in 1939, President Roosevelt decided to move the holiday up one week to add seven more shopping days to the holiday season to boost the economy. This ended up making everybody confused. Most states held Thanksgiving on its original date, and three states — Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas — celebrated the holiday both weeks. It was officially switched back three years later.
- Turkeys (kind of) get their name from the country. During the Ottoman Empire, a bird called the guinea fowl, which looks very similar to the American turkey, was imported to Europe from its native North Africa. Once imported, Europeans came to call the guinea fowl the turkey-cock or turkey-hen, because the bird came from the Turks. When settlers in the New World began to send a similar-looking fowl back to Europe, they, out of familiarity, called them turkeys.
- There are three towns in the United States named Turkey (Turkey, Texas, Turkey, North Carolina, and Turkey Creek, Louisiana).
- Thanksgiving's history has its challenges. Let us remember that Thanksgiving did not come about entirely peacefully. After the pilgrims arrived, years of conflict took place between European settlers and the Wampanoag people, which resulted in the deaths of millions of indigenous people. Since 1970, people have gathered on the last Thursday in November at the top of Cole’s Hill, which overlooks Plymouth Rock, to commemorate a “National Day of Mourning.” Even as European settlers fled to North America to escape persecution in their own country, their arrival heralded unspeakable loss for indigenous people.
Best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday. Despite any hardships or challenges, spend the day thinking of all the blessings and thankful things in your life. There are many.