On the weekend of November 14-15 almost thirty of us ventured on a bus trip to the Hudson Valley for a weekend excursion. I should acknowledge and thank Bob Newhouser and Mike Glikin for their impeccable organization of this trip. Our first stop was the FDR Home in Hyde Park, NY. One of the newsreels I have seen of President Roosevelt that stands out for me most vividly is that of him and his wife Eleanor seated at the head of a Thanksgiving Day table, as he carved a turkey with great skill and characteristically great good humor. The dinner took place in Warm Springs, GA, the site of Roosevelt’s home, known to many as “The Little White House.” Roosevelt built the house there because the water ostensibly had a salubrious effect during his rehabilitation from polio. Roosevelt used a sizable portion of his own personal fortune to build the Warm Springs Infantile Paralysis Foundation, and this Thanksgiving was also Founders’ Day of the institute. Roosevelt felt particularly comfortable at Warm Springs in the company of children and adults of all colors and creeds who were bound together by their affliction. They were all dealing with polio or similar conditions that caused levels of paralysis and disability. Roosevelt felt a special kinship to his friends in Warm Springs and much more free-spirited with the people with whom he shared this special bond. It is, of course, a bond that every single one of them would have wished they didn’t have to have. But they found support, help, love and acceptance in each other’s embrace, and that included the President of the United States.
We at Union Temple have been focusing on making our congregational home, and the programming within it, more accessible to people in our community who live with various kinds of disabilities, whatever they may be, and some are more readily apparent than others. As many of you are aware, we are being helped in this venture by the people at RespectAbilityUSA and UJA-Federation, who have awarded our congregation a sizable “Inclusion Grant,” which comes not only with a financial award but also with expert advice from professionals in this field, many of whom have gathered their expertise through personal experience.
As we gather this Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving, it might be in order for us to give thanks not only for the food in front of us (we should of course do that), but also for our health and strength, and if need be, for those who extend a helping hand when we need them, to bring us fully into the life of the synagogue.
And so too, on this Festival of Thanksgiving, would it be completely in order, as we begin our meals, along with our Motzi as we break bread, to remember our gift of life and rejoicing:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam, Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz
Blessed are You, Eternal God, Ruler of the Universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.
ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam, Shehecheyanu, V’kiy’manu, V’higiyanu Laz’man Hazeh
Blessed are You, Eternal God, Ruler of the Universe, for giving us life, and sustaining us, and bringing us together to celebrate this wonderful occasion.