Giving Thanks: Being Grateful in a Tough Year


Roasted whole turkey on a table with apple, pumpkin and figs for family Thanksgiving Holiday. | Getty

We asked Philadelphians what they were thankful for this year. Here are some of the answers we got.

Ross Berkowitz, founder and CEO, Tribe 12
In a time when there are so many big problems in our society and world, I make it a point to be thankful for the small moments. Singing to my children every night before bed, holding hands and sharing thoughts with my wife in a quiet moment after a hectic day, exchanging a smile — seen in the eyes behind a mask — with a friend in a chance encounter. There is a concept in Judaism of Hakarat Hatov — recognizing the good — and an obligation to give thanks for the good we see — in people, in nature, in life. Every day I try to slow down for a few minutes to recognize and cherish a small moment of the good.

Rabbi Jon Cutler, Beth Israel Congregation of Chester County
In a year of discomfort and confusion, I find gratitude is the best way to engage the world. I have found that this season of life has invited me into being grateful in the smallest of ways — spaces where I can be in such a hurry that I cannot or will not pause to take in the wonder but now I take the pause. I can kvetch about washing dishes or I can recite barachot of gratitude for the food prepared and eaten, for the [joy] in eating, and the task of cleaning up. I can hurriedly open the computer for the next Zoom meeting or take a moment to give thanks that I can see and engage with people who are equally frustrated with distance learning and conversations. I can lament the thousands of ways we are separate or delight in the phone calls and the old but trusted system of mailing notes and letters.

Emma C. Eisenberg, director of Blue Stoop, author of “The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia”
I’m thankful for my parents’ relative good health and for the health of most of those I hold dear. I’m thankful for the strength and clarity with which Philadelphians have fought for racial justice in recent months, particularly Black women Philadelphians. I’m thankful for my partner Art, to whom I recently made a longterm commitment, and that as of this moment queer people in this country have the right to legally marry if they choose. And I’m thankful for storytelling and creativity, which are so crucial in providing us with both revolution and solace.

Misha Galperin, CEO, National Museum of American Jewish History
I am personally deeply thankful that my family and I have our health in a year that has been devastating for so many. I am so appreciative of the staff and leadership of the National Museum of American Jewish History for their determination and resilience as we became an entirely virtual museum. And I am grateful to be a part of a history museum so that I can be reminded every day that we as Jews, as Americans, and as global citizens have triumphed over hardship and adversity throughout our history which can help us all look optimistically to the future.

Shira Goodman, regional director, Anti-Defamation League Philadelphia
Although I’m disappointed that Thanksgiving will not be our usual family gathering, I’m fortunate to have so much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for finding new ways to spend meaningful time with the most important people in my life, for the good health of those around me and for the efforts we are making to keep each other safe. I’m grateful for tough, challenging conversations that have both strained and strengthened relationships. I get to work with amazing people fighting against hate in all its forms and to build partnerships with others in the fight for justice. The challenges we face in this work, and in our daily lives, are great, but I’m thankful to once again feel hopeful about the future.

Dara Leinweber, care manager, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia
Any Phish phan will tell you that Phish is more than a band, it’s a family. And Phish shows aren’t just concerts, they are experiences. I’ve traveled 2,500 miles just to see this band. You get the picture. Trey Anastasio, frontman of Phish, responding to the isolation, fear, and doubt of so many, organized an eight-week livestream residency from the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Not only is it a treat to hear the music of my favorite band played live each week, but the shows are also a fundraiser with 100% of the donations made during the show going directly to The Divided Sky Fund, whose goal is to open a drug and alcohol treatment center where no one is turned away for lack of funds. These shows are literally saving lives and I am so grateful to be a part of a phamily that supports such a worthy and desperately needed service!

Shmulik Levi, shaliach, Camp Galil
The opportunity to be involved in educating the next generation during this difficult time is something that I am grateful for. In this time, it’s difficult to meet together in person, through masks and through screens with social distancing. Our persistence in meeting, by age-group, with dancing and happiness, is not obvious. I feel that this is a fact of shlichut. In this long period of uncertainty, we need to reinvent ourselves and acquire new skills. I found the leaders of the next generation who are ready for this challenge. They are already here among us. They grew up at Camp Galil, part of Habonim Dror, the Labor Zionist youth movement, and now they are ready for the challenges we face in these difficult times

Mike Levin, writer, co-host of “The Rights to Ricky Sanchez”
As the pandemic rages on uncontrolled, aided by a negligent and malicious government refusing on principle to be generous to the people who elected them amid the worst health crisis in a century, I am thankful for the people on the ground. Obviously nurses and doctors and hospital staff, but also mutual aid organizers, food banks, housing activists, everyone sacrificing their money or their time or their comfort to help other people. They don’t get the credit or support they deserve, but they’re essential to the survival of a society that seems determined to consistently make things more difficult for the most vulnerable among us. On a significantly less important note, I’m thankful that the Sixers now have competent management.

Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania
There are a lot of people across the commonwealth who may find it difficult to give thanks this year. It’s been hard; work has changed, lives have changed, we have changed. But 2020 has also provided great lessons about how to connect, how to lift up our voices for real change, and how to support one another — even in what can seem like the worst of times. This year, like many others, I relied on my family and my faith for support and joy. I am thankful for the inspiring stories of hope and support I’ve heard across Pennsylvania — neighbors helping neighbors, helpers finding ways to support their communities, people banding together to fight for what they believe in. It gives me hope that next Thanksgiving, more of our families will be able to celebrate together.; 215-832-0740; 215-832-0729


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