Thanksgiving is a Jew-ish holiday

Resource Roundup

Thanksgiving is a Jew-ish holiday

By: Emily Teck  |

As many of our families and children prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving on November 22, many Jewish educators are tasked with seeking a balance between providing a Jewish education and integrating current events and student interest into the materials. 
Is is a Jewish holiday? Traditionally, no- but the fact is that far more American Jews celebrate Thanksgiving than Sukkot or Shavuot, so it is up to us, the educators, to help our communities integrate their identities and celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jew-ish way. Thankfully- this task is not a difficult one. Jewish text and tradition are rich with examples of teaching, highlighting, and articulating gratitude, and our community treasures family gatherings with food and ritual. 

As you explore the Resources (lesson plans, books, videos) and click to explore the Jewish values highlighted, we hope you will find thought-provoking, engaging, inspiring ways to help children understand the true meaning of Thanksgiving and beauty of the the holiday through a Jewish lens.


Many Jews start their day by articulating thanks with Modeh Ani. Our rabbis taught us that Jews should make 100 blessings every day, elevating mundane tasks like drinking, eating, and using the bathroom by thanking God for giving us the ability to do these things. Songs and prayers from our liturgy like Modeh Ani, Modim Anachnu Lach, Birkat Hamazon, Shehechiyanu and Hallel are only a few of of the many texts that can be studied and  shared to highlight the Jewishness of our Thanksgiving preparation and celebration. For more ideas about songs to share to highlight this holiday in Jewish education, click here.

Suggest ways or create objects to help add Jewish ritual to Thanksgiving meals. For example, children can create placemats or table decorations with Hebrew words or text of a bracha (blessing) so that families can integrate their Jewish learning into their turkey eating. 

While Thanksgiving has become a festive holiday, it is important that we understand the origin of the holiday in the context of history and the grave injustices inflicted on an indigenous people.For many educators, ‘teaching’ and even celebrating Thanksgiving has become a ritual that is complex, balancing fond memoirs and family tradition with the contemporary understanding that the classic story is historically inaccurate because the truth is rife with grave injustices inflicted about an indigenous people.  

A myriad of opportunities are available to individuals, families, and schools to reach out and help others at Thanksgiving and throughout the year. Which one will resonate most with you and your children? Food drives and volunteer opportunities to help the needy abound, and toy collections for to help underprivileged families celebrate Christmas (or their respective religion’s December celebration) are underway across America.
Lesson Plans:
Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
I Love My White Shoes (Pete the Cat) Teaches to Be Content and Be Grateful 
It's Too Crowded In Here Story Teaches to Be Content and Be Grateful

Not This Turkey
Rivka's First Thanksgiving

Webinar: Beginning and Ending Each Day with Thanks (geared for ages 0-3 from PJ Library)
Everything Is Amazing! Recognizing the Good (HaKarat HaTov)
What's Jewish about Gratitude? Guide to HaKarat HaTov for Parents from BimBam
I Give Thanks with Sheldon Lowe

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