Rabbi Scott L. Shpeen: Giving thanks is essential

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Rabbi Scott L. Shpeen: Giving thanks is essential

Source: Times Union 11-18-11

I learned a very important lesson in understanding history while a student at the seminary in Cincinnati in a class on American Jewish history. Our professor, Jacob Rader Marcus, began by discussing when the first Jewish settlers came to North America.

It was assumed the year was 1654 when a ship arrived in New Netherlands from Recife, Brazil. The forebearers of the group aboard had fled the Inquisition in 1492 and now a century and a half later the settlers were seeking greater freedom in the Dutch colony. That is what was in the annals of history and accepted as fact. Yet Dr. Marcus noted that a document had been uncovered years before, handed down by the settlers describing their arrival: As they disembarked they was greeted ashore by an unknown co-religionist welcoming them with a hearty “shalom.”

It is with the same trepidation that I share the unofficial history of our Union Thanksgiving Service in Albany — because there are several versions of what was believed to have been the first joint Thanksgiving service. Some documents say it took place in the fall of 1927 while others say 1928 or 1929. I have yet to meet anyone who actually attended the first service, so we are still not sure which date is correct.

This much we know to be fact: The Thanksgiving ritual of coming together from different segments of Albany and the surrounding area, committed to mutual respect, understanding and friendship is a long-standing tradition that connects Congregation Beth Emeth, Trinity United Methodist Church, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany and Westminister Presbyterian Church….READ MORE

Scott Shpeen has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Emeth since 1985.

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