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JCF Blog

Take Nothing for Granted

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 11/16/2017

Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to recognize all the miracles around us, the ones so easy to overlook in our everyday routines. The sunrises, the love of family and friends, the joy of colleagues, the delight of sight and hearing, breath and thought, the freedom to worship as we choose – so much to be grateful for. The rise of hate in our society has reminded me that I’m particularly grateful for a free and democratic society, one in which we are free to fully participate regardless of our religious beliefs.

Thanksgiving is also an important time to reflect on those who came before us, whose sacrifices made our blessings possible. Naomi Levy’s new book Einstein and the Rabbi highlights the particularly poignant story of Rabbi Marcus, one of hundreds of thousands of courageous men and women who sacrificed for our freedom. “He was there on the beaches of Normandy and then in southern France and in Germany, where he brought comfort and solace to frightened, wounded and dying solders,” Rabbi Levy writes. “And then in 1945 Rabbi Marcus was one of the first chaplains to enter Buchenwald concentration camp and participate in its liberation.” 

What he discovered in the hellish remainder of Buchenwald amidst the dead and dying was nearly 1,000 children. Rabbi Marcus made it his mission to care for these orphaned children, personally escorting hundreds of Buchenwald boys into freedom.

He was a hero, and a father as well. He wrote these remarkable words on D-day 1944 to his nearly six-year-old son:

“Today our armies invaded France to attack the Nazis… They have already killed 4 million of our Jewish men, women and children… I am sorry I cannot be home to celebrate your 6th birthday as I must stay with my very brave men who are fighting for all the children in the world.  I must try to encourage them so that they should not be afraid.”

I was overcome at this glimpse into the intimate communications of a Rabbi far from home and in grave danger. My only thought: blessed are those that comfort the fearful in the face of evil.

Our blessings, the very things that bring us the most joy, came at a cost – one paid by hundreds of thousands of people who fought for our right to free speech, expression and religion. In appreciation of them, we must not take our freedom for granted.

But it’s not enough just to feel gratitude in our hearts; we must put it into action.

This Thanksgiving may all of our eyes be opened in gratitude for the large and small miracles of life and may we find the courage in our hearts for all those for whom food, clothing and shelter are not certainties. May we practice gratitude in thought and action as we work to repair the world together.

May you have a joyous Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.

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