How can we, as Jews, celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jewish way? There’s always the food; we could cook a turkey with dill or have latkes instead of mashed potatoes. We could incorporate some of the harvest prayers from Sukkot or a prayer for peace and togetherness. We could express our gratitude for what we have by helping others who have less by an act of tikkun olam.

These were some of my thoughts when I was asked to write about a Jewish Thanksgiving. These first thoughts formed after I finished my evening shift at a restaurant. My colleague, who has all kinds of European nationalities in his ancestry, mentioned that his favorite thing about Thanksgiving was the story we learn during our first years in school: the Native Americans and the Pilgrims broke bread together at one table. Then I started to think more broadly: What does Thanksgiving mean to anyone?

In addition to writing for this newspaper, I work at a restaurant and volunteer at an English as a Second Language center as a teacher’s aide, so I have a diverse group of contacts to whom I could pose this question. In addition to conducting in-person interviews, I posted a Facebook status and asked the ESL students for their thoughts. Overwhelmingly, the answer I got was that Thanksgiving means food and family – but differences arose when it came down to specific foods and family activities, which was at least partially due to the diversity of the respondents.

Following are some of the area interfaith events being held before Thanksgiving.

Congregation Beth David


St. Peters by the Sea

72 Central Street  

Narragansett, RI 02882

Nov. 22, 2015 – 9 a.m.

I stopped into a store in Providence today, looking for a small thank-you gift for a friend. I noticed a wooden board there that was labeled “a gratitude board.” It started me thinking: What is a gratitude board? Why do we need one? As Americans, we set aside one day each year, Thanksgiving, for giving thanks and showing gratitude.  Why only one day? Is that the only time of year you appreciate all the gifts you have?

What if each day you noted things for which you were grateful? While sitting around the Thanksgiving table, why not begin a discussion with family and friends? What are you thankful for, who are you thankful for? Why should we take time to give thanks? Is it important? The responses might be interesting and lead to further discussion.

While fall brings the natural beauty of changing leaves and the start of holiday festivities, it also initiates a time of great need for many in the community. The colder weather   means an increase in heating bills and Thanksgiving brings the expectation of a hearty holiday meal for families across Rhode Island. Jewish Family Service and many other community agencies are here to support those struggling to provide necessities and holiday meals for their families.

Each year, Jewish Family Service, with support from the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the Jewish Seniors Agency, coordinates the distribution of Kosher Thanksgiving food packages, including gift cards for perishable food items, for families in our community who are in financial need. Staff and volunteers assist in the shopping, coordination and distribution of these donations. All three organizations are thankful to the many donors and volunteers who support this meaningful effort.

Meeting with Dr. Rachel Adato are (left to right): Meagan Hamblin, president of URI Delta Epsilon Mu; Ellie Rosen, Israel chair of the URI Hillel Student Board; Dr. Adato; Lauren Cohen, president of the URI Hillel Student Board.Meeting with Dr. Rachel Adato are (left to right): Meagan Hamblin, president of URI Delta Epsilon Mu; Ellie Rosen, Israel chair of the URI Hillel Student Board; Dr. Adato; Lauren Cohen, president of the URI Hillel Student Board.KINGSTON, R.I. – On. Oct. 23, Dr. Rachel Adato, physician, lawyer and former Knesset member, spoke at the University of Rhode Island Hillel to a rapt audience of students and community members about her life and experiences as a pioneering Israeli doctor, politician and women’s health advocate.

Adato, the first female gynecologist in Jerusalem, attended medical school in Israel at a time when there was a quota of 10 percent for female students. She began her speech by telling the audience about her fight to become a doctor. Her adviser discouraged her dream of becoming a gynecologist saying that no woman would want to be seen by a female gynecologist. She could not believe that “stupid sentence came out of his mouth.” Thus began a lifelong philosophy of not taking “no” for an answer.