The First Thanksgiving Sermon Given By A Rabbi In 1789 by the Forward

The First Thanksgiving Sermon Given By A Rabbi In 1789

As soon as George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving holiday in 1789, some American Jews embraced the tradition right away.

Gershom Mendes Seixas, considered by some to be American Judaism’s first public figure, was only 23 years old when he was appointed in 1768 as the cantor of New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel (at the time, serving New York’s 300 Jewish residents, then housed in the ‘First Mill Street Synagogue’, located on what is today South William Street. Though never officially ordained as a rabbi, Seixas filled the role of rabbinic leadership there.

That Thanksgiving morning, Seixas gathered his congregants and rose to the pulpit to talk about the significance of the holiday for American Jews:

The sermon (“discourse”) was preceded and followed by readings of psalms, prayer for the rulers of the United States, and a prayer for the congregation.

To this very day, Shearith-Israel (also called the ‘Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue’, led by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik) has a special ceremony for Thanksgiving morning — no tahanun (an atonement prayer that is omitted on joyous days), prayer for the government, psalms, followed by a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day “parade viewing with hot chocolate and pastries”.

Read Seixas’ full sermon here:

A Religious Discourse: Thanksgiving Day Sermon, November 26, 1789 by alexlux18 on Scribd

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The First Thanksgiving Sermon Given By A Rabbi In 1789

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