A Letter from Rabbi Cohen

"Tov l'hodot," the psalmist tells us. "It is good to be thankful." It can be surprisingly challenging to hold on to a sense of gratitude for any length of time. In today’s culture, especially in New York City, we are conditioned to be constantly aware of what we want, what we wish we had, what we have lost, what is too slow, what is too difficult, what is too expensive.

Even on Thanksgiving, perhaps the most universally celebrated American holiday, we are often so focused on trying to orchestrate the perfect celebration in the midst of inevitably challenging family dynamics, that we sometimes lose sight of the "thanks."

Gratitude isn't about complacence. It's not intended to deny our feelings, to obscure what is broken in the world, or to replace our responsibility to work towards greater justice. In fact, when we feel more gratitude about the blessings of our lives, we have more space for generosity towards others.

Perhaps this is why Psalm 92, the psalm traditionally recited on Shabbat, reminds us that experiencing and expressing gratitude is a good thing. Try it. See what it feels like to inhabit a place of gratitude instead of a place of scarcity and frustration. When finally boarding the bus or paying for groceries after waiting for an inordinate amount of time, thank the driver or the cashier. When our kids or our jobs are exhausting, let us remember how much we wanted them in the first place.

This Thanksgiving season, let us try to focus on what we have, not what we lack. Say “thank you” more often. When we feel ourselves slipping into "I want…" or "that is too…" let’s remind ourselves, like a mantra, "It is good to be thankful."

Happy Thanksgiving,

Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen
Director of The Center for Jewish Living

Thanksgiving Events at the JCC!

Thanksgiving-Themed R&R!

Saturdays are FREE at the JCC! From November 3-March 23 (except January 26), from 2–5 pm, we promise you a day like no other in the week. All are welcome.

Sat, Nov 24, 2-5 pm

Cook Fight: A Night with NY Times Food Reporters Julia Moskin and Kim Severson

Join us for what is sure to be a lively and inspiring night as co-authors Julia Moskin and Kim Severson talk about CookFight, a one-of-a-kind cookbook that pits these two popular New York Times food reporters against each other as they debate strategies and recipes for today's home cook--both in and out of the kitchen. The evening will be moderated by Abigail Pogrebin and will feature a tasty culinary surprise.

Wed, Nov 28, 7:30-9 pm

Easy and Elegant Holiday Entertaining with
Chef Ari Ariel

Sip on a Gin Rickey or Old Fashioned while making roasted pepper and goat cheese crostini, chickpea and black olive bruschetta, chipotle tuna tartare on cucumber rounds, new potato cups with crème fraiche and salmon roe, snapper ceviche with cilantro and avocado, crispy salmon with balsamic sundried tomato vinaigrette, broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil, and saffron panna cotta.

Thu, Dec 6, 7-9:30 pm

PREformances with Allison Charney

Hear outstanding classical musicians as they prepare for upcoming performances around the world, in venues from Carnegie Hall to La Scala to Lincoln Center. Their first stop, however, will be the JCC, where the barrier is broken between performer and audience in these welcoming and approachable concerts. Each event includes an array of singers, instrumentalists, and repertoire.

Tue, Dec 18, 12:30-1:30 pm

Thanksgiving Books for Kids

Rabbi Rebecca and the Thanksgiving Leftovers

PJ Library Books on Gratitude

Boker Tov!, Written by Joe Black, Illustrated by Rick Brown

All of Me: A Book of Thanks, Written and Illustrated by Molly Bang

It Could Always Be Worse, Written by Margot Zemach, Illustrated by Margot Zemach

Terrible, Terrible!, Written by Robin Bernstein, Illustrated by Shauna Mooney-Kawasaki

Share Your Abundance with Others! Social Justice Opportunities

The JCC is participating in the West Side Campaign Against Hunger's Annual Thousand Turkey Challenge

Thanksgiving Banquet for seniors and Thanksgiving meal delivery (volunteers needed on the Sunday before Thanksgiving)

Take a Moment to Reflect on Gratitude at Your Thanksgiving Table

Ask everyone at the table to share something for which they feel grateful or to express thanks to the person sitting next to them. Reflect on where the food you are eating came from. Who were the people who cultivated it, brought it to you, and prepared it?

A Reading for the Thanksgiving Table, from the American Jewish World Service

The blessing after meals (birkat hamazon) text with hebrew, english, and transliteration