Thanksgiving Message and Resources


I have very few early memories of Thanksgiving meals.  I know that is true of some others in our community, including those of you who never encountered the holiday in your youths. 

Its narratives and traditions certainly surrounded me through my largely conventional American childhood, but the feast itself was not a regular part of my family's practice. If Thanksgiving were customarily celebrated on an earlier day of the week, we might have eaten all of its special foods, but my mother -- who worked hard each week, often starting on Thursday, to prepare festive Friday night meals -- was not inclined to devote the same attention to dinner the night before Friday, and the idea of serving leftovers on Shabbat was certainly anathema to her. 

One year, our cousins moved to Utica, not far from our home in Albany, and they invited us for a Thanksgiving meal. That is when I discovered that I am allergic to cats, approaching my parents during the hors d'oeuvres feeling woozy and with a full breakout of hives. Another year, my birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day. My twin sister and I got to pick what we would have for supper that night, and we made the obvious choice: how about turkey? 

Throw in the blizzard that whacked Upstate New York in 1971, and that is about all I remember of my early Thanksgivings. I will also admit that two decades of teaching US History fostered a dubious perspective on aspects of the origin myths associated with the holiday. These stick with me to this day, all the more in our region where many – to their credit – are striving to acknowledge tribes who inhabited the land before the arrival of Europeans and are seeking to rebuild and repair relationships with indigenous peoples. We have much work to do.

And, in the context of all of this, I have also come to appreciate much about Thanksgiving (As has my mother -- may she be blessed with many more years to enjoy it.). I cherish Thanksgiving's core messages of gratitude, its vibrant colors and delicious foods, its honoring of family ideals, and its opportunities to take a pause from routines in the embrace of friends and family. This year, I have been awaiting the holiday knowing it will bring home my two daughters – Liran who will make the journey from Ravenna later today, and Margalit will fly in from NYC tomorrow – and knowing it will provide us with the opportunity to break bread with new friends who feel like old friends.

I also prize the ways Thanksgiving taps our community's balance between deep bonds we share, rooted in values, along with commitments to celebrating what Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called the "dignity of difference," graced as we are by our diverse journeys and perspectives. 

As the holiday nears, I want to express my appreciation for our special school and our cherished students as well as for the ways that each of you support and advance our vital mission. SJCS is a place of great hope and positive possibility, of deep connection and eager curiosity, all at a time when these virtues are especially precious.  I would also like to offer two resources provided by Brooke Pinkham, SJCS parent and proud citizen of the Niimiipuu. They include one article for which Brooke was interviewed and another which she wrote for Seattle's Child. I hope the links below inspire good conversations around your tables, as I know they will around ours.

Most of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, enriched by gratitude for all that unites us and also for the dignity of our differences.