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From the archives: Thanksgiving

Something that quickly becomes clear when searching the IJN archive for Thanksgiving is how common Thanksgiving synagogues services were, which no longer is the case. While synagogues today may remark on or incorporate Thanksgiving into its services, very few are billed as “Thanksgiving services.” More common today, but also taking place over the decades, are interfaith Thanksgiving services, the opportunity to find common ground across faiths for what is a civil, not specifically religious, holiday.

That’s why, perusing through the archive, we were surprised by an unsigned piece from Friday, Nov. 28, 1930 that seemed to sling arrows at a minister of another faith. While today we typically refrain from commenting on members or messages of other faiths, unless they in some way harm the Jewish community, this critique caught our attention as its ultimate message was relevant to today’s environment.

Apparently at the height of the Roaring Twenties, a Denver-area priest offered a sermon citing the booming stock market as evidence of all “we have to be thankful for.” The IJN piece called the sermon “a paen of praise for an overloaded pocketbook.”

Continues the article: “We cannot help wondering what that estimable clergyman, if he be consistent, may ask his flock to be thankful for now that stocks have gone down, and the wheels of industry have slowed up.”

The article goes on to cite the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley to craft the message that “the attitude of thankfulness is a soil in which the spirit grows.” That is, thankfulness itself is the goal, not necessarily material things for which to be thankful.

This resonated because today, in 2022, we’re also in a downturn of sorts. Our economy has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic and other disruptions, and we may not have the same material fortunes for which to be thankful. But that’s not where Thanksgiving stops and ends. As we wrote in last week’s editorial, there is still so much to be thankful for, whether it be family, a kind word from a stranger, our traditions.

In fact, as that IJN piece 92 years ago says: “If one can give thanks in the face of adversity is of itself an evidence that the giver of thanks is the possessor.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

This online feature explores the IJN’s new digital archive, discovering the news of the week, years ago.

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