Although the first occurrence of Thanksgivukah would not be until 1888, the first Jewish Thanksgiving sermon was preached a century earlier on Nov. 26th, 1789, by the Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas (1746-1816) in New York City at the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation Shearith Israel. To mark Thanksgivukkah 2013, Georgetown Law Library Special Collections has acquired a copy of a scarce 1977 Jewish Historical Society of New York reprint of this landmark in American Judiaica.
This 1977 reprint of the exceedingly rare 1789 pamphlet included an introductory historical essay by the long-time Editor and Librarian of the American Jewish Historical Society, Isidore S. Meyer. Dr. Meyer notes Rev. Seixas’ strong exhortation to the small community of Jewish Americans in 1789 (“0.04 percent of the country’s total population”, Meyer at xiii) – “If to seek the peace and prosperity of the city wherein we dwell be a duty [Jeremiah XXIX:7] even under bad governments, what must it be when we are situated under the best of constitutions?”(Seixas at 13-14) – as “an expression of civic responsibility” inspired by having become full citizens of a country “for the first time, since 212 C.E. when the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla… had given all Jewish freemen of the Roman Empire the rights and duties of Roman citizenship,” (Meyer at xii); an apt reminder of the inclusive aspirations of American constitutionalism for Thanksgivukkah 2013.
The full text of the 1789 Thanksgiving Day Sermon is available through the library’s Early American Imprints subscription.
To view these and other recent rare and historical acquisitions, contact Erin Kidwell firstname.lastname@example.org or Special Collections email@example.com, or visit us in Williams 210 M-F from 10am to 6pm.