I am very pleased to announce that the website for our Temple Beth Torah Israel Trip in June 2015 is now up and running. You can view information about our itinerary, programs, lodging and more by visiting http://www.arzaworld.com. On the top right hand side of the homepage there is a search box to find the trip. Type in "beth torah" and hit enter. People can also go directly to our trip’s website at http://www.arzaworld.com/temple-beth-torah-israel-trip-2015.aspx. Flight information is still pending.
Tri-City Interfaith Council Thanksgiving Service:
This past Monday night, I had the honor of speaking at the Tri-City Interfaith Council Thanksgiving Service. Though this blog is appearing a day after Thanksgiving, hopefully its message is still relevant:
“I have a warm spot in my heart for Thanksgiving that is rooted in my childhood memories of the holiday. It was a special day not just because we would eat a delicious meal. What made Thanksgiving really special was that on this festival we celebrated my grandfather’s birthday.
My paternal grandpa, Clarence Schulman, was not born in the United States. He was born near Minsk in Belarus near the end of the 19th century. Grandpa’s birthday was presumably sometime in the fall, but no one knew the precise date in the secular calendar. So years later, with all his children and grandchildren living in Long Beach, California, we designated Thanksgiving as the date we would celebrate Grandpa’s birthday.
I recall giving Grandpa birthday gifts like ties and cardigan sweaters. But what meant more than anything to him was his joy in seeing all of his family gathered together. From a humble childhood in a small town in the Old Country, Grandpa could now see his three children and ten grandchildren living the American Dream.
Thanksgiving is a time when we can reflect about the remarkable journey of our families. Whether we are Native Americans or immigrants, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, all of us can appreciate the root value of this holiday. It is a day in which we find common ground in giving thanks for living in this land of opportunity.
The United States is far from perfect. Our hearts ache at the gross injustice of millions living in poverty in this land of plenty. We cry out for families who struggle to find shelter when affordable housing is lacking or for those who live in fear of deportation. We condemn the growing gap of inequality that divides our country between those who have and those who have not. Our country has yet to fulfill its potential as a land where all can express their religious faith without fear of harassment and discrimination.
Thanksgiving reminds us of our higher calling as citizens of this still amazing country, to welcome the stranger, shelter the homeless, provide food for the needy, and to reach out to one another with understanding and respect. Thanksgiving affords us the opportunity to act with kindness and righteousness, by responding generously when we are asked to contribute to a worthy cause.
'Can we be changed by Thanksgiving? Can it make us a more just and united society? Can it lift our vision to let us see what is possible for America?
The answer is that Thanksgiving has been doing this since its first observance many years ago. Thanksgiving embodies the common yearning of the American people for a good life for our families, for our neighbors, and for our fellow citizens.
Thanksgiving is the manifestation of an ancient impulse among our people. It’s that impulse that makes us sort through the misunderstandings, heartaches, struggles and disappointments in our nation’s life, and still declare there is no country on earth we would rather live.
Indeed, there’s always cause to celebrate the goodness of life in America.’
May God bless America, land that we love.
May we bless one another with warm hearts; outstretched arms;
with good deeds and with prayers that offer thanks for all that is good in our lives.”