The Shmooze

An Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration in Pleasantville

By Josh Tapper

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In a news year that’s brought us a fundamentalist, Koran-burning Christian preacher, pan-religious outcry against a proposed mosque near Ground Zero and threats of an exclusive Israeli conversion bill, leave it to the New York Times to celebrate the holiday season with a story about ecumenicalism.

Deputy Metropolitan Editor Peter Applebome traveled to Pleasantville, N.Y. — roughly 28 miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County — to report on an interfaith Thanksgiving service that concluded Sunday with a joint rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”

And joining Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists — along with a gaggle of musicians — at the Pleasantville Community Synagogue bimah was the late folk singer’s daughter, Nora, who lives nearby.

The service included readings from the Old and New Testaments, the Koran and “Thankfulness and Buddhism on Thanksgiving.” Already members of a local community organization, the Pleasantville Clergy Association, religious leaders saw this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to defy swirling notions of religious exceptionalism — the classic Guthrie tune, of course, was used to affirm America as a land of equality.

“It was natural,” Applebome writes, “that the interfaith group’s members saw a metaphor in their midst — a story line about diversity, tolerance and the changing nature of religious experiences that went counter to much of the imagery of discord and division in the news.”


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