November 29: The Jewish Thanksgiving Day
For several years now, I have been campaigning to declare November 29 as the Jewish Thanksgiving Day — a day where we give thanks to Lady History and to the many heroic players who stood behind the historic UN vote of November 29, 1947. That vote has changed so dramatically the physical, spiritual and political life of every Jew in our generation.
I have argued that Jewish communities in every major city in the US should invite the consuls general of the 33 countries who voted yes on that fateful day to thank them publicly for listening to their conscience and — defying the pressures of the time — voting to grant the Jewish nation what other nations take for granted: a state of its own.
Imagine 33 flags hanging from every Jewish Federation building, 33 anthems representing their respective countries and the word “yes” repeated in 33 different languages in a staged re-enactment of that miraculous and fateful vote in 1947.
The idea came to partial fruition in 2012, when a spectacular production of The Vote took place at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, featuring clergy, speakers, actors, musicians, singers and dancers. The event commemorated the day when, 65 years earlier, the United Nations voted 33 to 13 to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
Efforts to turn this into an annual event nationwide have so far not born fruit, perhaps because we became overly fragmented — or perhaps we need time to digest our debt to history to appreciate the impact that such a ceremony would have on strengthening the spines of our children and grandchildren.
But I am not one to be deterred by shortsightedness.
This year, on its 70th year anniversary, I will celebrate November 29 by myself, if needed and, if you care to join me, it would make the celebration so much more meaningful.
Let us give thanks to the 33 countries who voted Yes on the spectacular turn that Jewish history took in November 1947, and for the dignity, pride and self-image that every Jewish soul has enjoyed since.
Let us give thanks to Eddie Jacobson, President Harry S. Truman’s friend and former business partner from Kansas City, who risked that friendship and wrote to Truman on October 3, 1947: “Harry, my people need help and I am appealing to you to help them.”
Let us give thanks to Albert Einstein, who pleaded, albeit unsuccessfully, with Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India, to vote for “the august scale of justice”
Let us thank Cardinal Spellman, head of the Catholic Church in New York City, who — days before the vote — used his personal influence in Latin American countries, urging them to vote Yes.
Let us thank the many ordinary yet courageous people, from Peru to the Philippines, who understood the collective responsibility that history bestowed upon them in 1947, and used everything in their power, from personal pleading to arm twisting, to get their governments to vote Yes.
Let us thank 33 ethnic communities in our cities and remind them that we Jews do not forget friends who stood with us on the side of justice — we give thanks and ask for nothing in return.
And while we thank history for its miracles, let us remind ourselves and others of a few basic facts:
- Let us remind the world that Israel is there by historical right, not by force, nor by favor.
- Let us remind the UN what kind of institution it once was, and let us do it this month when, in Orwellian mockery, the UN Human Rights Council elected Congo, Qatar and Pakistan to join the annointed guardians of humanity.
- Let us refresh our memories with all the arguments, pro and con, regarding the idea of a Jewish state — arguments that our enemies have mastered to perfection, and that we have naively assumed to be no longer necessary, to the point of delinquent forgetfulness.
- Let us express ceremonially what we have tacitly understood for quite some time: Israel remains the only uniting force among world Jewry, without which collective Jewish identity would cease to exist.
- Finally let us remind the Arab world that the UN voted for two states, not for a Jewish state only, as their spokesmen claim — and that the option of Palestinian statehood is still on the table, waiting for them to internalize the meaning of the word “co-existence” and to learn to utter the words: “equally legitimate and equally indigenous.”
Happy Thanksgiving Day.