Many say that Thanksgiving is patterned after Sukkot, the Jewish Holiday of the Harvest. At Sukkot, we celebrate a successful harvest, petition God for good rains and climate, enjoy the outdoors in the sukkah and, in general, are conscious of all the many blessings of G-d. There is no doubt that there are some parallel themes to our American Thanksgiving day, but it appears, as you’ll read in the information below, that the tie is not terribly strong.
Apparently “thanksgiving days” were not, at first, necessarily harvest festivals. Rather, Thanksgiving was a reformist, Calvinist and Puritan response to “too many” Catholic holidays. The Puritans, and before them, the followers of Henry VIII, sought to replace “church” holidays with holidays of fasting and thanksgiving for events of contemporary life. Europeans–British, Irish, French, Welsh and Spanish–followed this practice. The settlers of what would eventually become the U.S and Canada brought these customs with them when they settled in the New World. Many such fast and thanksgiving days were established to mourn drought, disease and to celebrate military victories and rescues. For the settlers in a new land, a holiday was often declared after a successful crop or the successful repelling of an Indian attack, declared from region to region to region in the New World by governors and preachers in the colonial territories of Canada and what would become the United States.
The Thanksgiving tie to the Pilgrims became solidified just before the Civil War era by author Sarah Hale, who was the composer of Mary Had a Little Lamb. She was the first to content that it was the Pilgrims of 1621 who established a Thanksgiving. But evidence is sparse that it was the grand celebration she depicted with turkey, cranberry and all the trappings. People of that time may not have had access to those foods. Hale’s twenty-year effort to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday ultimately was successful, although President Lincoln’s first efforts to celebrate the holiday were interrupted by the Civil War and its aftermath. Certainly many individual states, by Lincoln’s time, had a Thanksgiving Day, but the date was not uniform and several states did not celebrate it.
Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the northern and southern states. Because of the ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America's refusal to recognize Lincoln's authority, a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s.
On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Be that as it may, Thanksgiving Day has entered the American psyche and is the quintessential American Holiday that is celebrated by most citizens. It is recognized as a holiday that is celebrated by most every American as a moment in which to reflect on all the bounty that this great country offers us. From a Jewish standpoint, the holiday is important in cultivating a sense of gratitude. We, in our daily prayers, are reminded of G-d’s miraculous qualities in “renewing the creations each and every day.” I encourage you to make it a spiritual moment for those with whom you celebrate.
As the High Holidays have just concluded, I would like to say todah rabah to all of our dedicated congregants who spent so many hours in the orchestration of our beautiful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services! I will not attempt to mention of these individuals by name for fear of omitting key people.
Melissa Kurtz, our fabulous and totally dedicated V.P. of Education reports that the first few weeks of the school year have been tremendously exciting as we welcomed approximately 18 new families to our Congregation whose children are now enrolled in our school. This year we have two Alef classes and two Gimmel classes, which is wonderful. During these initial weeks we welcomed so many new students and two new teachers as well. We look forward to the continued growth of our school and congregation.
We will soon be celebrating the festive Holiday of Simchat Torah, most certainly one of my favorite Jewish Holidays of the year. On this exciting Holiday, we celebrate with singing, dancing with the Torahs and so much more. The reason for this major celebration is that we conclude the reading of the entire Torah which in and of itself is more than an adequate reason for celebration. However, on Simchat Torah we first conclude the reading of the Torah by reading the last parsha called V'zot Habracha and we immediately begin the reading of the Torah again by reading the first parsha of the Torah B'reishit, which quite obviously has significance.
Is it a coincidence that these portions have these particular names? Quite obviously not, and I could most certainly share with you numerous explanations in this regard. I will share with you just one powerful message that we can learn from this custom. The last portion being called V'zot Habracha is appropriate as these words mean "This is the blessing"–Our blessing is the fact that we have the z'chut–the honor and privilege of having the Torah and being able to read and study it on a regular basis. The first portion is B'reishit, which means "in the beginning" and this portion deals with creation.
In summary, we are truly blessed having the Torah given to us by G-d and there is never an end to reading and studying Torah. Therefore, on Simchat Torah, as we conclude the reading of the Torah, we immediately begin reading the Torah once again depicting the fact that our lives are based upon Torah at all times, with no exception. It is indeed a blessing when we together live lives based upon the precepts, commandments and mitzvot as written in our Torah.
It is my hope and prayer that Torah will continue to be an important and integral part of our lives on a daily basis.
Chag sameiach to all Read More
Not only do I want to give a Yom Kippur appeal but I want to appeal to each and every one of you to HELP US HELP YOU!
We will be reaching out to the congregation many times in the near future to find out how to best serve all of our congregants’ needs regarding services, programming or communications. Please, please answer our surveys. Surveys will be conducted both electronically via e-mail and mailed out to your homes.
ENJC is now in its 58th year of existence! Obviously we have been doing something right, and are continuing to do so. In times where synagogues in our area are struggling, merging or just closing their doors, we are growing. This year we signed up 17 new members–I thank you for choosing ENJC!
In the past two years we have renewed the contracts of our clergy. Rabbi Silverman will be with us for seven more years and Cantor Nussbaum will be here for the next five years. Continuity of the clergy is important, and Rabbi Silverman and Cantor Nussbaum work together like a well-oiled machine. We must continue to evolve and be everything to all. We are a diverse group. Some congregants come to the synagogue 3 days a year and some do everything but sleep here! We have members ranging in age from newborns to almost 100 years old.
To continue to grow, we must work harder to satisfy the needs of all of our congregants. We must be able to provide answers to all requests within reason. This past year we upgraded all of our thermostats so they can be controlled remotely. Their design is such that we will not be wasting money and energy heating or cooling the building when no one is here. Going forward, we will be looking into to cost savings on the electric side. We plan on exploring the option of accepting credit cards for payments. We will be looking into environmentally responsible and cost saving methods of operation.
Our Religious School is growing rapidly. This year we have two Aleph and two Gan classes. According to projections for next year, it looks like next year we will have two Aleph, Bet and Dalet classes. We have in excess of 100 children in our school. Thank you all for joining us.
50% of our Congregation Board has children in our Religious School. With all the new blood on the board, it is important that our senior Board members share their guidance and experience with the newer members.
I am very excited to be your ENJC President. It has been my family’s experiences at ENJC that have pushed me to dedicate the time needed to serve as your president.
I thank my wife Meryl for sharing me with the synagogue. My family joined ENJC in 2005. Danny had his Bar Mitzvah in 2007 and Amanda had her Bat Mitzvah in 2009. They both loved their USY experience and how USY impacted their lives. I am proud to have them come home from college for Yom Kippur–and obviously it was not for the food!
I want to thank all the people of ENJC who have helped make this the “Hamish Shul” that we are today. Rather than run the risk of upsetting someone by not naming them, I will not mention any individual names this year–you know who you are! Whether through financially generous donations, your commitment to attending services for the daily minyan, Shabbat or Sunday mornings, being on the board as a VP or trustee, or just being one of the many that we know we can call upon and you will be there for whatever needs to be done, I extend a very special thank you to all who have contributed in any way for this year’s High Holiday services–from chair and book set-up, coordinating babysitting, the various children services, ushering, flowers, coordinating all the honors and alliyahs, sukkot set-up and the things I surely left off the list.
If you are not involved- it is time to get involved. We can never have enough people to help. Everything is made easier when there are many to do it.
We had a wonderful synagogue beautification fundraiser project this past year, our patio brick paver project. But that was just the beginning; there is room for many, many more bricks. Sit on the benches and take a long look, and decide to honor your loved ones who have passed or honor the simchas in your life.
I want to remind all that our Yom Kippur appeal is our major fundraiser of the year. Please be generous.
Have a happy and health New Year! Read More