On November 20, 1941 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered a Thanksgiving Proclamation.  Acknowledging the dangers to liberty facing America from abroad, Roosevelt passionately reinforced our country's core commitments: "We have not lost our faith in the spiritual dignity of man, our proud belief in the right of all people to live out their lives in freedom and with equal treatment.  The love of democracy still burns brightly in our hearts." In the spirit of the holiday, Roosevelt gave thanks for divine "mercy in affairs both public and private, for the bounties of the harvest, for opportunities to labor and to serve, and for the continuance of those homely joys and satisfactions which enrich our lives."

Interestingly, FDR's seemingly unifying proclamation proved controversial.  Criticism focused not on its content, but rather on the date of its delivery.  For the third year in a row, in an effort to stimulate the economy with a longer holiday shopping period, President Roosevelt had moved Thanksgiving earlier than had been the custom since the days of President Abraham Lincoln.  Within weeks, responding to the controversy, Congress returned Thanksgiving to its original place on the calendar -- the fourth Thursday in November -- where it remains today.

Looking back, knowing that Pearl Harbor lay just around the corner, it is difficult to take seriously a dispute over the date of Thanksgiving in 1941.  As some Americans sentimentally debated a calendar matter, all Americans sat on the brink of our country's entrance into war. And yet, surely, we have all had that experience: lots of things--big, small, and in between--feel important and significant all at once.  In the moment, we ponder the big picture and the many other pictures that simultaneously capture our attention.

Our students teach me the importance of this balancing act every day.  For one quick lesson, just peruse the "wish" leaves on the tree in the 30 West End Avenue atrium that our students created at HesedPalooza last Sunday.  The range of hopes and dreams is profound: peace, no robbers, more water, love and kindness, justice, the best tenth birthday ever, good health and good healthcare, pokemon, a dog, for no one to be homeless, cookies, acceptance, toys for children, happiness for all.

So too with gratitude.  I deeply appreciate that on Thanksgiving we can simultaneously feel our thanks for the big things, the small things, and for all the things in between.  Like FDR, we can be grateful for everything from democracy to the daily joys that make our lives better. I am grateful for our country and our community; for my family and friends; for the turkey that I am going home to cook, and for the hours of fun that will accompany its consumption.  And Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, I am grateful for Heschel's amazing faculty and staff, our passionate parent body, our dedicated Board of Trustees, our inspiring students, our committed alumni, and for the spirit, values, commitments, and energy that fuel our learning and growth.

I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled thanks for big and small things, and with gratitude, love, and peace.




Early Childhood Center • Henry Lindenbaum Lower School • Alan B. Slifka Middle School
30 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 784-1234
High School • 20 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 246-7717

Like us on Facebook

Unsubscribe from this eNotice.