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Jewish Perspective
Thanksgiving from my Jewish-Native American Point of View
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 • Posted November 23, 2010

I find the American experience rather interesting to the extent that history looks different to each of us. While we think race, color and creed have little bearing on everyday living, it sure does when it comes time to observe sacred moments from a religious or national perspective. These moments leave room for conflict among fellow Americans and this is so very true with someone like me who attempts to honor my chosen faith, Judaism, and one strand of my ethnic heritage, Native American.

Years ago I endeavored to learn more about what it means to be Native American without knowing the important element of what clan or nation our family belonged to (because I don’t know as of yet). So I looked within the political circles and was fascinated.

The prevailing voice among Native Americans tends to be the voice of baby boomers. What is their strategy? Protest, of course. Because theirs was the voice I venerated most as a youth, I sought undertones of this among Jews and their views of holidays. What I found was very understated.

I find that Jews observe their own version of Thanksgiving based on individual and familiar preferences. I don’t really notice a conflict with Judaism and the holiday of Thanksgiving.

For the other side that I consider each day, the American Indian, the holiday is rife with conflict. Why would anyone celebrate or commemorate the very moment your land and way of life were taken over by an enemy? You wouldn’t. Losing everything is not a part of anyone’s plans in life. And the loss to Native Americans has been realized over the course of 100 plus years. The hurts, wrongs, and inequities are obvious to the Indigenous, made simplistic even though it’s done innocently by Non “Indians.”

But what aren’t always obvious are the answers to redress these conflicts.

Because you see, ultimately it comes down to the winners and losers of history. Of course the winners write the history, yet Americans love an underdog. Americans seek to understand but Americans also dislike being wrong. How do we view our history and, in turn, our holidays from a well rounded perspective?

I don’t have a concrete answer for that. I know that a basic component to Thanksgiving is food. One way I would chose to observe Thanksgiving would be to serve dinner in a soup kitchen in San Antonio or Austin.

Most folks will spend Thanksgiving with their families. Some of us will work while the owners of the company we work for will eat turkey with their families. We have to do what we must to survive. This is where I find the essence of Judaism for me. Always respect those around you, contemplate what your faith believes in all matters, and flesh out your own thoughts for yourself.

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