From the desk of Stewart Bromberg
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving, is a traditional holiday in our country. This is a day to join with family and friends and share what we are thankful for, and help others appreciate the joys and positive moments of their lives. At least this is what we do around our Thanksgiving table. At a Jewish Endowment Foundation meeting last evening, Susan Weiss Firestone, Chair of the Jewish Endowment Fund Committee, shared a bit of interesting history with those of us sitting around the table. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln presented the following proclamation (only portions of which are presented here):
October 3, 1863
By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty G-d…
…Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom… I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise…
…In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State’ *
Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.
Not only did I learn about the origin of Thanksgiving in this country, but this reinforced my belief that we as Jews are truly lifetime learners. I was raised to understand there is always someone who can teach me something new. Maybe not every day, but if I can listen more than I speak, the chances are great that I will hear something new.
Knowledge is power, especially in a world where many use fears to knock us off balance and hope to change our lives. Learning is how we gain knowledge. Sometimes we learn alone, with others in classrooms and at lectures, and many times in places and at times that we least expect it. The most important part of lifetime learning is to use the knowledge we gain to help others to be better informed about what is going on around us.
One of my goals is for all of us to understand how we can work and live together in a society looking to bring more humanity to the world. To think about the possibility of peaceful solutions to our differences. When we can look through a crowd of people and feel a unity based on peace and respect and know that we are here to help each other grow, then we can truly be thankful for the progress we have made.
I have many things to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family and truly love them all. I am thankful about living in western Massachusetts where I have always known is where I belong. I have this wonderful opportunity to work to create a more positive future for our community, and I am extremely thankful to have the opportunity to work with all of you as The Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts works to build a stronger and more vibrant community for all of us.
A special thank you to Susan Weiss Firestone for presenting this opportunity for us to learn something new.
I wish you and your families a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving Day. I ask that as you sit around your tables and think about all that you are thankful for, please remember those who support our efforts, present our programs and serve or communities.
Stewart Bromberg, CEO
Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts