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Thanksgiving Welcome

Rabbi Gertel’s 2008 welcome, as President of the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council, to well over 1500 people who attended the community's annual Thanks­giving Day service at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago:

Blessed be those who have come from near and far.  In the name of the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council, I welcome you to the ninety-fourth annual Thanks­giving Day service.

As we draw close to the Interfaith Council’s ninety-eighth year, I am reminded of the story of a ninety-eight year old man who limped into his doctor’s office and said, “My knee hurts so bad, I can hardly walk.”  The doctor eyed him and said, “Sir, just look at you.  You’re practically one hundred years old and you’re complaining that one knee hurts?  What did you expect?”  The old man replied, “Well, my other knee is 98 years old and it doesn’t hurt!”

Organizations, like individuals, find renewal when we are thankful for what has worked a long time and yet maintain hope that we can remain creative and minimize wear and tear in our efforts to do good and worth while things.  The Interfaith Council has launched a Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry Program, stronger than ever and now operating independently.  We have encouraged visionary grass-roots programs for economic development in Bronzeville and Transitional Housing in Hyde Park.  For a time we engaged in community organizing in order to partner with communities to the immediate North and South of us, and we have launched a successful interfaith dialogue program, meeting next on December 7.   We are planning a health and wellness program which will help bring medical services to the community.  These are just some of the things that have occupied us over the past 25 of our 98 years, in addition to stimulating quarterly meetings on topics like acquainting ourselves with services to the homeless, meetings open to the entire community.

We respect and cherish the spiritual wisdom of all peoples.  I have been asked to wear another hat–or yarmulke–​​​​​​​besides that of greeter, and open with readings from the Jewish tradition.  I chose passages from the psalms that inspire many of our faith communities, and present them as understood by the Talmudic sages:

  • Happy are they who dwell in Your house, O God; they will ever praise You.
  • They are inspired in your house to follow Your commandments of kindness and righteousness.
  • Happy is the person who considers ways to help those in need, guiding them to overcome their challenges and to become productive and fulfilled.
  • God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works. Therefore we must show mercy to pets and other animals as well as to human beings, but we must remember that human beings are created in the image of God.
  • All Your works shall acknowledge You with thanks, O God, and Your faithful ones will bless you by being a blessing and following Your example of compassion and mercy.
  • God supports all who stumble, and makes all who are bent stand straight.
  • The eyes of all look to You expectantly, and You give them their food when it is due.
  • You open Your hand, and satisfy every living creature to its heart’s content, challenging us to make peace between You and the hungry and needy by becoming Your hands and Your feet when we help others.


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Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784