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This Thanksgiving Cultivate Gratitude and Advocate for Change

This Thanksgiving Cultivate Gratitude and Advocate for Change


I love Thanksgiving. I love spending the long weekend with my family, I love switching between the Philadelphia Thanksgiving day parade and football on television in the morning, and I surely love pumpkin pie more than any other Thanksgiving dessert at dinner. I especially love Thanksgiving, because it asks all Americans to do something that is quite Jewish: cultivate gratitude.

Jewish morning prayer begins with two words modeh ani, I give thanks. The liturgy knows that before we can make sense of the world, we have to center ourselves through thanksgiving. We recognize that everything we experience today, is a gift. When I look through the world from a frame of gratitude, I allow myself to be excited at the extraordinary and the minutiae of each moment.

Gratitude doesn’t just come to us. It’s like a muscle that can be strengthened through practice, but when it is strong it transforms the way I see the world, and creates a new frame for me to understand that I have been given enough to fill my needs and more, and it encourages me to feel pain when encountering others who do not have enough to meet their own needs.

So, this Thanksgiving, I will gather with my family to show gratitude for my Thanksgiving meal, but I will also be mindful of the millions of Americans who are food insecure. I will think especially about the 15 million children whose parents were not sure where their next meal was going to come from at some point this year. These children, who often go to school hungry, are more likely to perform poorly in school because of their lack of food.  I will think about the five out of six kids that receive free or reduced price lunch during the school year who will not have access to those meals during the summer and other school vacations, (including Thanksgiving, coincidentally).

And then, after thinking about those who are food insecure. I will begin to act. I may write a letter to my members of Congress, or try to add an act of tikkun olam to Thanksgiving dinner. Hopefully my family will follow along, and together we will all begin to see the world differently.

At the RAC, we have a number of resources to help you not only make your Thanksgiving a time to cultivate gratitude, but also ways for you to take action with your family to urge Congress to combat child hunger:

  • View our Thanksgiving Holiday Guide. This guide will give you resources to add the Jewish values and texts into your Thanksgiving meal and provides ways to incorporate acts of tikkun olam into your celebration




This Thanksgiving, let’s practice gratitude that leads to meaningful and powerful action. 

Tyler Dratch is the Torah, text, and tradition coordinator at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC) and a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

Tyler Dratch

Published: 11/23/2015