It was just about this time of year many years ago, during my first year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union
College in Jerusalem, that I became homesick. I loved being in Israel, and the High Holy Days were truly an
amazing experience. But as Thanksgiving approached, I realized that there would be no celebration in Israel of
my favorite American holiday: no family gathering, no turkey with sweet potatoes and stuffing and cranberry
sauce, no pumpkin pie, no enormous over-eating; and nothing at all to remind me of how exceptionally
fortunate we Jews are to live in a nation like the United States.
In response to my feelings of longing for Thanksgiving, my classmates and I decided to create our own
Thanksgiving in the student lounge at HUC in Jerusalem. It was a wonderful evening, and in order to celebrate
it appropriately, I wrote a dinner table service for the occasion. As I thought about a title for the service, I
realized what it truly was – a Thanksgiving Seder.
When I returned to Los Angeles the following year, I brought my Thanksgiving Seder with me and have used it
all these years in my own family observance. In addition, I have shared it frequently with many who were
intrigued by the concept of celebrating Thanksgiving with a Seder. It has undergone many revisions, but
remains basically as it was created: a Jewish dinner table observance of a quintessentially American holiday,
albeit one that feels very Jewish. I share it with all of you this year in the hope that you find it as meaningful
and uplifting as I did so many years ago, and have continued to for all these years since.
With best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday,
Rabbi Rick Shapiro