February 23, 2024 -

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Thanksgiving Post October 7th (Toldot – 11/18/23)

Thanksgiving Post October 7

No doubt, feeling thankful is more challenging this year. The war in Gaza is a terrible mess, and we’re losing the social media war. The hostages have yet to return, and every day, Israeli soldiers are risking their lives. Furthermore, antisemitism worldwide has increased.

Nonetheless, Judaism is built on gratitude, and if we look, we’ll see there’s much for which we are to be grateful.

With antisemitism on the rise, we’re finding out who our friends are. Steve Pitonza is one of them. This incident was shared on Facebook: A woman from North Woodmere walked into Play It Again Sports in Oceanside last week and bought out all of their headlamps. She then asked the owner if there were any more in the back, to which he responded in the affirmative and went to retrieve them. As she was about to pay for the untold number of headlamps, Steve, one of the owners, asked her why she needed so many headlamps, to which she responded, “To send to the soldiers in Israel.” Steve’s response? “Take them for free. It’s on us.” Steve Pitonza, who is not Jewish, stands by Israel and its people. And he’s not alone; many of us are familiar with the story of the Golden Dolphin Diner in Huntington. After creating a window display with dozens of ‘Kidnapped’ posters, a Long Island diner saw a dip of 40% in sales. Word got out, and now business is booming due to support from Jews and Jewish allies.

Christian non-profits are raising money for Israel. International Christian Embassy, Genesis 123 Foundation, Bridges for Peace, and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews have donated tremendous sums. The Vice President of one of these organizations is quoted as saying: “I don’t think we’ve ever raised so much money so quickly … people are responding like never before.” I found the same when I recently went to an Israel Bonds breakfast; it was as if people were clamoring, “Take my money!”

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, though, receives my highest esteem. On a recent Shabbat evening, he surprised his congregants at Friday night services by asking them to take out their smartphones. Cosgrove directed them to scan a bar code where they could give money to Israel. He had already called upon individuals to contribute, but he needed those sitting in the congregation to help him reach his goal of $18 million. And they did! The Talmud says that saving lives supersedes the dictates of Shabbat. Here’s a rabbi who walks his talk!

Likewise, we should be thankful to Leslie Wexner. The billionaire owner of Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bath and Body Works is well known for his Jewish philanthropy. Of course, he supports other worthy institutions, such as Harvard University. But not anymore. Since the Harvard University administration not only did not express support for the State and people of Israel in their time of need but a letter from Harvard student groups blamed Israel for the mass attack, Wexner announced that he was ending the financial support he had provided for the university for the past 35 years. Perhaps we should treat ourselves to a little lingerie in his honor!

Locally, we should also be proud of our Nassau County Executive, Bruce Blakeman, for showing great support for Israel and upping the security of Jewish institutions across the county.

Likewise, our Senator, Chuck Schumer, who is the Senate Majority Leader, is the highest-ranking Jew in our government in American history. He’s a true friend of the Jewish people and Israel, and it was encouraging to hear him speak at the Nassau County rally on November 12.

Thanksgiving this year will undoubtedly be different; we can’t separate from our worries and concerns. Yet, there’s still much to be proud of and thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

R’ Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
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