5 Ways to Make a Difference in the Lives of Others This Thanksgiving and Beyond
In the nonstop, lightning-fast busyness of life, it’s increasingly difficult to stop and just be, let alone be grateful. Of course, that’s precisely the idea behind Thanksgiving, but all too often, it seems we bring that same frenetic pace to the holiday and its preparations. From menu planning, shopping, and cooking to football, family chaos, and more, there’s never enough time to forget the chores and the to-do list and just relax.
For many, the challenges of poverty, food insecurity, and holding down multiple jobs to (barely) make ends meet mean there’s rarely any downtime. Coupled with the destruction caused by numerous recent natural disasters, more people than ever are facing a shortage of basic needs and recovery efforts that will stretch into the foreseeable future.
As Thanksgiving approaches and we take stock of our own blessings, one way we can demonstrate our gratitude is by supporting efforts that raise awareness around such issues as poverty, hunger, and fair wages, as well as organizations that provide goods and services for those in need.
Here are five such initiatives contributing to this sacred work and ways you can join their efforts:
- Donate a coat: The Union for Reform Judaism's 2017 Biennial (held December 6-10 in Boston) will offer an opportunity to donate coats to Bostonians in need. City Mission will distribute them to families in the city’s public school system and to clients of the Homeless Education Resource Network (HERN), organizations that provide social services, clothing, and school supplies to more than 3,000 homeless students. You need not be attending the Biennial to send a coat.
- Start important conversations: Repair the World’s Act Now Against Hunger campaign offers Jewishly framed discussion guides, activities, and more to encourage Thanksgiving-table conversations about food insecurity, hunger, and food waste, as well as actions to help alleviate them.
- Contribute to wildfire recovery efforts: In the wake of the wildfires in northern California, there are numerous ways you can support ongoing recovery efforts:
- Two California Reform synagogues are accepting gift cards for distribution to those in need. You can send them to Congregation Shomrei Torah (2600 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404) and Congregation Beth Shalom (1455 Elm Street, Napa, CA 94559).
- Organizations providing on-the-ground relief efforts include the Jewish Community Federation’s North Bay Wildfire Emergency Fund and the United Way Relief Fund.
- As URJ Camp Newman assesses the physical damage to its facilities – and considers its future while supporting campers, families, staff, and community – the camp is accepting donations to its #NewmanStrong Relief Fund.
- Support those affected by hurricanes: Recovery continues in communities affected by the season’s hurricanes, including Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The best ways to help those in need in these regions is to donate to these organization providing relief in impacted areas: Jewish Federations of North America 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund and NECHAMA: A Jewish Response to Disaster.
- Help send clean water to Puerto Rico: Beit Ahavah, a small congregation in Northampton, MA, has paired with a local church to spearhead efforts to get water filters to Puerto Rico, helping to ensure clean water in the wake of Hurricane Maria. To support the community’s efforts, send checks (payable to Florence Congregational Church with “water filters” on the memo line) to 130 Pine Street, Florence, MA 01062. Online donations can be directed to Temple Beth Shalom’s Hurricane Maria Recovery Fund. For information about donating specific, urgently needed items to Puerto Rico’s Reform congregation contact Rabbi Norman Patz or Zevio Schnitzer.
This Thanksgiving – and on #GivingTuesday, which will follow on its heels – may we be grateful for all that is ours, and gratified by the difference we can make in the lives of others.