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6 Great Jewish Reads for the Fourth of July

6 Great Jewish Reads for the Fourth of July

American flag in background; bursting fireworks in foreground

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from July 4th celebrations in years past. One in particular, from America’s bicentennial in 1976, is especially sweet – and Jewish.

On that date, July 4, 1976, amidst the parades, barbeques, and fireworks marking this country’s 200th anniversary, more than 200 Israel Defense Forces commandos successfully carried out Operation Thunderbolt. In this daring raid, the IDF rescued more than 100 passengers and crew members – mostly Israelis and Jews – being held hostage in Entebbe, Uganda, after their Air France plane had been hijacked on a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. That night, when she tucked 13-year-old me into bed, my mom said, “Today was a wonderful day to be an American, and it was a wonderful day to be a Jew.”

With that sweet remembrance in mind, here’s some of our favorite Jewish content from Independence Days past, all from the archives of and all still worth the read.

1. "An American Reflects on Independence Day from Israel"

Cantor Evan Kent, an American Reform Jew who made aliyah to Israel (moved there to live permanently) reflects on his memories of Independence Day in the U.S. compared to Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

2. "A Jewish Family's Unique Fourth of July Tradition"

Lauren Theodore writes of her family’s Fourth of July celebrations: “We schmooze around the grill, cool off in the pool or with a beer, and shuck corn on the cob…Fireworks light the night sky. It’s all typical Independence Day stuff” – but with a unique twist. Taking turns, those gathered read aloud the Declaration of Independence.

3. “What the Fourth of July Means for American Jews

In a year in which Independence Day coincided with Shabbat, one writer shared his love for both the holiday and our nation. Nonetheless, he wrote, “[W]e cannot turn a blind eye to those whose American dreams remain unfulfilled, … or on those who need us.” It’s up to us, he says, to act and be agents of change wherever we are needed.

4. "Freedom and the Fourth of July: What Does Judaism Say About Independence?"

“Judaism certainly has things to say about independence,” Rabbi David Wirtschafter writes, even as he notes, that “Judaism also emphasizes the notion that being dependent is part of our human condition.” Rights and responsibilities, dependence and independence – all are intertwined, and all are blessings of living in a democracy.

5. "Celebrate the Fourth of July with Patriotic Jewish Chocolate!"

If you’re looking for a sweet treat to round out your holiday, check out this decadent recipe for frozen hot chocolate from Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz, a Reform rabbi and noted chocolate expert. It’s sure to please any and all chocolate lovers.

6. "18 Israeli Recipes to Spice up Independence Day"

These 18 recipes will add an Israeli twist to any Independence Day celebration – and you can enjoy them all summer long! 

Do you have a favorite memory from the Fourth of July? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Jane E. Herman , a.k.a. JanetheWriter, is the senior writer and editor at the Union for Reform Judaism. She is a graduate of Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and holds a master's degree in public administration from the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El in Edison, NJ, and now belongs to Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. A proud New Yorker, she loves books, fountain pens, social media, Words with Friends, mah jongg, and all things Jewish. She blogs at JanetheWriter Writes.

Jane E. Herman
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