In just one week families and friends all across America will come together to celebrate that uniquely American holiday known as Thanksgiving. While there will be the traditional dishes of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes, some of the foods and side dishes at the Thanksgiving table, much like the families sitting around them, are hardly homogeneous. There will be rice and peas, quiches, empanadas, knishes, curry goat, dahl, tabbouleh and lasagna, to name a few.
As a naturalized American citizen, Thanksgiving has always held a special meaning for me, perhaps because it's the only American holiday that truly celebrates America's diversity and pluralism. As America becomes more diverse, Thanksgiving assumes added significance. It remains a day that Americans, regardless of back- ground, usually celebrate in the same way, with warm gatherings that include family and friends, food and football.
In 2001, shortly after 9/11 there was a wave of anti-Muslim sentiments that was sweeping America. As a positive way to bring our country together The American Jewish Committee (AJC) created a Thanksgiving booklet called America's Table as a way to help us celebrate our diverse roots, shared values and gratitude for being Americans.
The booklet stated "In a world too often threatened by differences, Thanksgiving is a day to appreciate how our various backgrounds make America vibrant. " I couldn't agree more. America's pluralism and diversity are our strength. There are those who think diversity and inclusion mean that they lose and those who are culturally different from them get all the goodies. But, diversity is no like playing a game of musical chairs where the music stops and those without a chair are forced to drop out. America's pluralism and diversity are more like a thanksgiving table where more people than thought possible find room to sit around the same table where all are welcomed.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving let's not forget that America's pluralism also includes the needy among us. For some families putting food on the Thanksgiving table this year will be a struggle. Perhaps you could donate to a food pantry or deliver a thanksgiving meal to an individual or a family in need. Remember that Thanksgiving is just another working day for people who are first responders. You may want to take a few dishes to the local fire station or police department. On Thanksgiving day many homeless shelters and retirement homes need volunteers to both prepare and serve meals so you may want to consider making this a family activity that truly will put the "giving" in your Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is truly a celebration of the family--America's family. And while like family we have our dysfunctional moments, our painful disagreements, our faults warts and foibles, we remain this beautiful quilt and pluralistic kaleidoscope of people of various backgrounds who make America vibrant.
I am Afro-Caribbean, non-Jewish and a proud board member of the AJCBoston. I applaud the publishing of this compelling perennial booklet "America's Table" for the purpose of helping us accept, respect, and appreciate each other's uniqueness regardless of our ethnic, social, civic, or religious backgrounds. I am truly thankful for our enduring democratic principles and, despite a busy and complicated life, the freedom to pause and celebrate with family and friends and give thanks.
"In America, each of us is entitled to a place at the table." (America's Table)