Voices from the Field
Thanksgiving was an American tradition that my family didn’t part with. My parents made aliyah 30 years ago from North America, and while they were eager to learn Hebrew and feel comfortable in their new surroundings, celebrating Thanksgiving was one tradition they (my father particularly) were not willing to give up. The tradition varied over the years. At times we would celebrate it on the Thursday night in accordance with the American tradition, and then other times we would have Thanksgiving dinner as our Friday night Shabbat meal. For me this was a beautiful combination between traditions - we would eat traditional Thanksgiving food, every family member would say what they are thankful for, and then we would recite Shabbat psalms and Diverei Torah.
I enjoyed celebrating Thanksgiving with my family in Israel, though it was foreign to my friends and our community. My Israeli friends either did not know what Thanksgiving was or they mistook it for a religious Christian holiday. Growing up in an Anglo family, I was constantly being asked what language was more comfortable for me to speak. However, what I was really being asked was: Do you feel more Israeli or American? I would answer at times – “both” – though it always felt like I needed to choose. I am very comfortable speaking in one, dreaming in the other and in general enjoying the richness of both.
This year will be my first time celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States. The uniqueness this year is that the first night of Hannukah and Thanksgiving overlap – a once in a lifetime event. While speaking to other Jews living in the United States, I realize that during this night they will be celebrating an American tradition, along with Jewish and Israeli traditions. To them, their Jewish and Israeli identities are one. To me, Hannukah does not feel Israeli - it is distinctively Jewish. This probably stems from growing up in Israel where there is a clear distinction between Jewish and Israeli holidays, such as Yom Ha'atzmaut. Depending on your traditions, you may or may not celebrate the Jewish holidays but everyone celebrates the Israeli ones. And while during this year’s "Thanksgivukkah" I won’t feel that I am celebrating my Israeli side, I am thankful for an opportunity to express my American and Jewish identities together in a single night.
This post connects with the Educator's Backpack "The Things We Carry: Traditions"
Why do we keep the traditions we keep? Post your comments or send us an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Leah joined the iCenter team in October 2013 following her recent move from Israel to Chicago. She feels fortunate to be part of a team that shares her passion for Israel, and that is committed to advancing Israel education in North America. In Israel, Leah worked for the Mandel Foundation, a nonprofit organization which trains social and educational leaders, while completing her MA in Conflict Resolution and International Policy at the Hebrew University. Previously, she worked for the Foreign Relations Division of the Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry. Although this is Leah’s first time living in the U.S., she did spend time here as part of the Israeli delegation to Camp Moshava in Wisconsin during the summer of 2004. Leah resides with her husband Yitzi in Lakeview, Chicago.
"Ani v'ata neshaneh et ha'olam" ("You and I Will Change the World") - Arik Einstein
Israel in the 1960s-70s was an age of Arik's music. During the 1970s in Tel Aviv, a friend of mine was one of Arik's producers and I had the opportunity to go behind stage at a number of his concerts.
Arik's experiences were our experiences. He's the voice of a generation, my generation and my Israel. I remember listening to "סן פרנסיסקו" while on the beach in Tel Aviv many, many years ago. His song talks about him looking out over the San Francisco Bay, enjoying the view, but feeling that one leg is in America and the other in Israel. This really resonated with me and many of my American friends because both Israel and America are a part of our identities, and we work to balance both pieces in our lives.
He invited us into his life, heart and home through his music, and his music lives on...
Binnie Swislow was born in Milwaukee and moved to Tel Aviv when she was in high school. She served in the Israeli Air Force during the Yom Kippur War. Binnie has a BS in Linguistics and Bilingual Education and a Masters in School Administration. She was the Director of the Kohl Children's Museum Jewish Teacher Center, and has taught Hebrew in several cities across North America and Israel. She currently serves as a consultant for the iCenter to help strengthen Hebrew in Chicagoland public high schools.
"Our mission is to put Israel at the forefront of space exploration. To quote President Kennedy: 'Not because it is easy, but because it is hard.'"
- Yariv Bash, co-founder, SpaceIL
Over the coming year, the iCenter will develop and distribute resources for educators to connect children with the exciting story of Team SpaceIL. As a starting point, consider showing this video to a group of young people to start a conversation.
In the video, Yariv says that so much has changed in the 70 years since his grandfather was forced to be a scientist for Germany. What do you think he means?
What inspired Yariv to create Team SpaceIL?
How does it make you feel to think of Israel becoming the third country—after the United States and Russia—to land a spaceship on the moon?
Join the mission by visiting SpaceIL.com!