I am grateful for all of you. Thanksgiving is coming, but I am not preparing a turkey (I leave that part to the experts!). Instead, I am preparing myself for this season of gratitude.
Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday. It’s the quintessential American day, though arguably more appreciated by immigrants than by those who were born here, and who often take America’s blessings for granted. I know that I don’t take those blessings for granted. Even after so many years, I find myself more thankful than ever to be living in this country – more thankful than ever to be the beneficiary of its freedoms and its possibilities.
I especially love the ritual of going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for each year. And in that department, this has been a banner year for me. I really have so much to be thankful for. On the top of my list is the opportunity to get to know my family again after five years of constant business travel. I will be going into Thanksgiving this year without the usual havoc of making my way home from a far-away place (be it literally or figuratively). I don’t know about you, but I have always found myself working harder right before a vacation – so that by the time it arrives, I really need one (and then afterward a vacation from the vacation).
I am also celebrating the 40th anniversary of my personal exodus from the Soviet Union, so Thanksgiving is even more poignant for me than ever this year. I want to thank all of you who have contributed to the Hannah Senesh Community Day School to help me celebrate that anniversary – and to honor the memories of my father and my father in law. We have been deeply touched by this kindness.
But this year, the preciousness of what America has historically offered its newcomers – almost boundless opportunity, a welcoming hand, true hope for equality and acceptance – is particularly striking, and seemingly at risk. Recent events, all over the world, have ironically created a backlash against refugees who are driven to flee the ravages of criminal fanatics, and murder in in the name of religion.
The spectacle of the Presidential election has brought to surface many anti-immigrant sentiments, the kind that have no place on our Thanksgiving tables, and the kind that will certainly have no place on mine.
“Welcome the Stranger among you for you were a Stranger in a strange land.” This is what our Jewish tradition has taught us, and it is what America was actually built upon. Let’s be thankful for it. And let’s pass it forward.
Chag Turkey Day Sameach!
Dr. Misha Galperin is author of two books and currently heads a philanthropic consultancy business. He is former CEO of Jewish Agency International Development. You can subscribe to his musings at Zandafi.com.