In 2006 if you checked your NY Times Magazine or your New Yorker Magazine at this time you found a copy of America's Table stapled inside.
It was a "Thanksgiving Reader" that you could take to the dinner table and take turns reading.
Sounds like a Passover Hagaddah, no? You can go to the AJC web site and download the booklet as a PDF file.
The Jewish Standard had an article by Lois Goldrich about the booklet which described how the project took shape. The contents as described by Goldrich are,
The format — a "universal" narration, which remains constant each year, accompanied by profiles of men and women whose lives "illustrate the power of diversity and democratic values" — was designed to help Americans find common ground in a world where, often, differences are considered threatening, said Schept. The people profiled are recommended by AJCommittee chapters and are largely drawn from their interfaith contacts.I found the readings so-so. There are so many classical statements of our "diverse roots and shared values" that could have been used in the booklet. And many stories of great Americans that should have been included. Take a look. Maybe it works for you.
II. Thanksgiving Mishnah
One year when I was teaching a course called Intro to Judaism at the University of Minnesota I asked the students to write a little creative assignment -- a Mishnah chapter for Thanksgiving based on what they were studying in their course readings.
The text we used was meant to teach the characteristics of the Mishnah is chapter 8 of Berakhot which contains the disputes between the Houses of Hillel and Shammai concerning the detailed order of the rituals and mannerisms of the Sabbath meal.
All the students did a wonderful job devising their own Mishnahs -- except for one. Surprisingly she was an Israeli student who actually knew what Mishnah was even before taking my course.
Here is the twist. When she came to me to discuss why she could not do the assignment she said, "Sure I know what is Mishnah. I learned about it in school is Israel.
"The problem is that I just came to the US and I have no idea what is Thanksgiving."
Ah, the problems of teaching at the multi-national midwestern university. [Annual repost.]