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Thanksgiving Quiz

November 22, 2016 | by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

How much do you and your family know about Thanksgiving?

(Fyi: more than one answer could be correct.)

1. When was the first Thanksgiving feast and what did it celebrate?

  1. In November, 1620, a group of about 130 Pilgrims landed in modern-day Massachusetts. After disembarking, they designated the third Thursday in November a day to give thanks.

  2. On March 21, 1621, after a miserable winter spent sheltering in the Mayflower, the Pilgrims finally emerged to build houses on land and designated a Sunday for their first feast, calling it a day of Jubilee.

  3. The first Thanksgiving feast occurred sometime around the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, in 1621, after the Pilgrims had reaped their first crops planted in the new land and invited local Indian tribes to celebrate and give thanks with them in an echo of the Biblical festival.

  4. In 1653, the Pilgrims’ descendants designated the first Sunday in November a day for giving thanks and recalling their parents’ journey to America.

2. Turkeys are indigenous to the Americas. Can this uniquely New World delicacy be found in Israel?

  1. Yes. Israelis are the biggest fans of turkey in the entire world, eating more turkey per capita than people in any other country, an average of 28 lbs. per person per year, nearly double that in the United States.

  2. No. As a New World bird, some Jews didn’t believe that turkey could be kosher, and Israel banned the importation and breeding of turkeys until 2012, when some limited amounts were approved for consumption.

  3. Yes. In fact, many Middle Eastern and Jewish treats are now made using turkey in Israel: turkey shwarma, turkey schnitzel and turkey pastrami are all Israeli favorites.

  4. Yes. Not only do Israelis love turkey, Israel consistently ranks in the top-ten of major turkey producers worldwide, despite its small size. Half of Israel’s turkey is exported, so it’s possible that the turkey on your family table was raised in the Jewish state.

3. President George Washington decreed a National Day of Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789 to celebrate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. How did the nation’s Jews respond?

  1. The small Jewish American community at the time objected to the religious character of Washington’s remarks, and refrained from celebrating the days of Thanksgiving.

  2. Pres. Washington’s proclamations were addressed to "all Religious Societies and Denominations, and to all Persons whomsoever within the United States", in what many Jews saw as an explicit desire to acknowledge them as full Americans, and the American Jewish community embraced Thanksgiving.

  3. Small and unorganized, American Jews lacked the ability to respond to Pres. Washington’s calls for a day of thanksgiving in an organized way.

  4. New York’s Congregation Shearith Israel, one of the first synagogues in the United States, held a special holiday service of Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789, reciting Psalms and other traditional Jewish thanksgiving prayers.

4. Green-bean casserole is a staple of American Thanksgiving tables. This humble recipe can be traced to which origin?

  1. Green-bean casserole as millions of Americans know it first appeared in a 1950s Midwestern church cookbook.

  2. The dish came to prominence when Dorothy Snively, the wife of Florida citrus magnate John Snively, Jr., served it to the Shah of Iran and his wife. The queen was so taken with Mrs. Snively’s casserole that she kept asking questions about its ingredients, until the Snively butler finally snapped “Listen, lady, it’s just beans and stuff!”

  3. The dish as we know it was created by the Campbell Soup Company in 1955, using the company’s iconic cream of mushroom soup as a primary ingredient.

  4. Jewish Canadian journalist and editor Cecily Brownstone introduced green-bean casserole to American cooks, popularizing the dish.

5. President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. In 1863, in the depths of the Civil War, he asked that Americans “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving”. What was Pres. Lincoln’s relationship with Jews?

  1. Mixed. Pres. Lincoln did business with Jews throughout his professional career, but made it clear he never regarded Jews as personal friends.

  2. Pres. Lincoln was aligned with Pennsylvania Governor John. W. Geary, who in 1868 issued a proclamation of his own, that the new holiday of Thanksgiving was to be celebrated in a specifically Christian manner that excluded his state’s Jews.

  3. Pres. Lincoln was beloved of America’s Jews, some of whom called him “Rabbi Abraham”. He insisted on appointing Jews as chaplains in the American army, pivoted away from calling America a Christian country and asserted it should be called “a nation under God” instead, and counted Jews among his very closest friends.

  4. When Abraham Lincoln was born, the United States was home to about 3,000 Jews. By the time of his death, approximately 150,000 Jews called the US home. Like many of his compatriots, Pres. Lincoln was wary of this growing minority, and warned against Jewish political power.

6. The Hebrew word for turkey is Tarnegol Hodu. In a Thanksgiving coincidence, what other Hebrew word is a homonym for “Hodu”?

  1. Cranberries are also called Hodu in Hebrew.

  2. Stuffing is pronounced Hodu in Hebrew.

  3. Family is also called Hodu in Hebrew.

  4. Hodu is the Hebrew word for “thanks” and “praise”.

7. When a penniless Jewish immigrant, Adam Gimbel, immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s, no one knew that one day the Gimbel family would profoundly affect the quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving. How did Gimbel, who ran a post on the Indiana frontier trading with the local Shawnee Indians, shape Thanksgiving?

  1. From his original trading post, Gimbel founded a department store in Milwaukee, eventually opening grand stores in New York, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Abraham Lincoln was so fond of Gimbels department stores that he asked Adam Gimbel for advice when contemplating establishing a national Thanksgiving Day.

  2. The Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia initiated a Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1920, with store clerks donning clown costumes and dancing down Market Street. Other stores copied Gimbels and the tradition of Thanksgiving Day Parades was born.

  3. After trading with Native Americans for many years, Adam Gimbel lobbied for Thanksgiving, a national holiday that would feature friendship with the original Americans.

  4. In 1939, Frederic A. Gimbel, then owner of Gimbels Department Stores, led a lobbying effort to move Thanksgiving from its original date of the last Thursday in November to the third Thursday in November, in order to give shoppers more time to do their Christmas shopping. In 1941, Congress voted the new date into law.

8. The Pilgrims were led by William Bradford, who would later serve as governor of Plymouth Colony. When the Pilgrims made landfall in Massachusetts in 1620, Bradford opened his Bible and led a brief service, reading selections from Psalm 107. Bradford’s Bible contained Annotations written by the Puritan scholar Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622). What did these annotations say about the Psalm that Bradford selected as the Pilgrim’s first prayer in America?

  1. Bradford’s Puritan Bible contained references to the Jews’ passage from slavery to freedom in ancient Egypt.

  2. Bradford’s annotated Bible spoke of the Americas as a new Promised Land.

  3. Henry Ainsworth provided the original Hebrew text of Psalm 107.

  4. Henry Ainsworth’s commentary on Psalm 107 quoted the Medieval Jewish sage Rambam’s legal code the Mishna Torah on the Jewish custom of publicly recite a prayer (derived from Psalm 107) after times of great danger, including after making a difficult journey by sea.

9. For Jews, every day is Thanksgiving: Jewish liturgy contains multiple thanks and blessings to thank the Divine for everything in our lives. How many times does Jewish tradition advise us to pause to say blessings of thanks each day as a minimum?

  1. At least once each day.

  2. We say thank you for our blessings at least three times each day.

  3. Eighteen.

  4. One hundred.

10. In 2016, November 24 is being celebrated by Jews throughout the United States as the festival of Thanksgiving. 2180 years ago, Jews were feasting and celebrating on this calendar day, too. What major festival was observed for the first time on November 24, 164 BCE?

  1. On this day in 164 BCE, Jews completed construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem.

  2. On this day in 164 BCE, the Babylonian potentate Ahaseurus granted Jews the right to defend themselves from those who sought to wipe them out, and arrested his minister Haman, who had organized the attempted genocide.

  3. On this day in 164 BCE, Judas the Maccabee and the Jews of Jerusalem rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, which they’d just recaptured from Greek forces.

  4. On this day in 164 BCE, Jews fled Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea and offering praises and thanksgiving to God.


Question 1: C

After making landfall in November 1620 in present-day Cape Cod, the Pilgrims were unable to build houses before the brutal New England winter, and sheltered in the Mayflower ship all winter. Half of the Pilgrims and ship crew perished. On March 21, 1621, the Pilgrims finally left the ship; they built buildings and planted crops, and after their harvest they invited local Native Americans to a three-day festival of Thanksgiving to give thanks for their good fortune. Religious Christians, the Pilgrims were familiar with the Biblical account of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival. They saw themselves as modern-day pilgrims, echoing the experiences of the Jewish pilgrims who used to bring offerings up to Jerusalem on Sukkot in ancient times. No one knows exactly when the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, but historians estimate it occurred sometime between September 21 and November 9, 1621, near the festival of Sukkot.

2. A, C and D.

Despite it being a New World bird, Israelis love turkey, and the fowl is one of Israel’s major agricultural exports.

3. B and C.

Pres. George Washington enthusiastically embraced the many American Jewish patriots who called the United States home at that time. He personally was indebted to the Jewish financier Chaim Salomon, who gave $200,000 of his own money, an enormous sum, to the American Congress during the War of Independence. The year after his Thanksgiving decree, Pres. Washington visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, and famously assured American Jews of their place in the the United States, saying “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in the land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit safely under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

4. A, B, C and D.

Citrus magnate Dorothy Snively found a recipe for green-bean casserole in a Midwestern church cookbook, and cooked the dish when the Shah and Queen of Iran visited the couple’s home. According to local press accounts, the Queen was so impressed with the casserole she kept asking what ingredients it contained. Sensing a good story, the Jewish Canadian journalist Cecily Brownstone, who at the time was the food editor at Associated Press, wanted to write about the casserole. Seeking a tasty version, she asked the Campbell soup company up with one, and printed their version in 1955. It was an instant creamy, crunchy, delicious hit.

5. C.

A staunch philo-Semite, Lincoln was an early Zionist, expressing his hope that persecuted Jews in Europe could find safety in their ancient homeland. At home, he pressed for an inclusive vision of the United States, pivoting away from depictions of the country as a purely Christian nation and embracing the country’s Jews. He opposed Pennsylvania Gov. Geary’s insistence that Thanksgiving be celebrated in a purely sectarian manner, as did Pennsylvania’s large Jewish population, who sent letters to the Governor asking him to change his mind, to no avail.

6. D.

Hodu means “thanks” and “praise” in Hebrew. It also means India. (The word Hindi comes from the same source.) Turkey in Hebrew is Tarnegal Hodu, which literally means “Indian chicken”!

7. B and D.

Adam Gimbel did build the Gimbels Department Store empire from his original trading post in Indiana, though there is no evidence he played any role in the establishment of Thanksgiving. His motto was “Fairness and equality of all patrons, whether they be residents of the city, plainsmen, traders or Indians.” Gimbel’s descendants shaped the holiday, though, starting the first Thanksgiving Day Parade, and leading a group of merchants to ask Congress to change Thanksgiving date to the third Thursday in November.

8. D.

Some Pilgrims learned Hebrew and even read some Jewish texts in an effort to understand their Bible. The concept they borrowed in 1620, reciting a public blessing after times of danger, continues to this day as Jews offer public thanks following difficult or dangerous experiences.

9. D.

It is traditional to recite at least 100 blessings of praise and thanks each day. This starts first thing in the morning with the Jewish prayer thanking God for allowing us to wake up. Jewish liturgy provides prayers of thanksgiving for our ability to go about our day, for having clothes to wear and food to eat, for being able to live our lives as free people. All these blessings are a powerful way to keep gratitude in the front of our minds and to go about our days feeling thankful.

10. C.

In the year 164 BCE, November 24 corresponded to the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. On this day, the Maccabees and the Jewish army they led finally recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem; it was the culmination of a seven-year revolt against the ruling Greeks. The Jews cleaned the Temple, removed the idols placed in it by the Greeks, and relit the golden Menorah. Only one container of pure oil could be found; although there was only enough oil to burn for one day, miraculously the Menorah remained lit for eight days. Today Jews the world over celebrate this miracle, and the Jews’ miraculous military triumph over the mighty Greek empire, in the holiday of Chanukah.


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