Breaking Bread and Building Relationships

November 23, 2022

“In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.”* This collection of settlers had landed on the shores of this New World seeking religious freedom and lives of peace without persecution from the religious majorities in the Old World. Fearing this new land, most of the Mayflower’s passengers remained on the ship for almost an entire year before desperation for survival forced the remaining few to move ashore.

Yes, this was the first “Thanksgiving” in the colonies, even if the pilgrims themselves did not call their three-day feast as such. However, a much earlier documented “thanksgiving feast” is described in this week’s Torah portion, Toldot.

In the opening verses of the reading, we are told of a great famine that swept the land. Yet, unlike the famine generations later that moved the Hebrews to Egypt for 400 years, for this famine, Gd tells Isaac to simply settle in Gerar, where Isaac will grow in great wealth. Eventually, Isaac is banished by the Philistine King, Abimelech, because Isaac’s tribe has “become far too big” (Genesis 26:17).

But it is only a few short verses later that Abimelech realizes his mistake and chases Isaac down in Beer Sheva, where Abimelech insists on making a peace treaty with Isaac, after which Isaac “made a feast, and they ate and drank” (26:30).

Celebration around food has been a historic way to show appreciation since the birth of civilization. The idiom to “break bread” comes from numerous stories of adversaries sitting together at a meal and leaving as friends, or at least not as mortal enemies.

We are living through one of the most severe eras of antisemitic outbreaks in United States history. As SAPD Chief McManus and Mayor Nirenberg both shared at our recent community-wide Kristallnacht gathering, it is at times like this that our individual humanity and our personal relationships across faith and ideology are called upon as the most significant way to fight this hate.

In support of these efforts, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation is once again leading the way [next week] with our second annual “Share the Light of Shabbat” across San Antonio initiative. This special Shabbat invites members of the Jewish community to welcome non-Jewish friends, neighbors, and coworkers to the Shabbat table to “break challah” and build critical relationships that will help combat the Jew-hatred spreading across our nation and globe. We might not be able to combat all the antisemitism at one time, but we can start by building important bridges and friendships with others wanting to eliminate the hate in our midst.

So, this Thanksgiving, as you share your thanks with those around your celebratory table, we encourage you to consider opening up a future Shabbat meal to others in the community who know little about our Jewish traditions, customs, and practices. Although we are almost at capacity for this year’s volunteer hosts for “Share the Light of Shabbat,” we encourage you to let us know that you are interested in being part of one of our future Shabbat opportunities.

Building community is what we do because we are…


Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom,