web analytics
April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Harrisburg’s Annual Thanksgiving Kiddush Hashem


Share Button

Clearly, fall has come to Central Pennsylvania. The crisp air, the vibrant array of autumn colors, and, yes, a whole lot of leaves to rake. With the arrival of my favorite season, I know Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

While America’s Orthodox Jewish community has yet to reach a consensus regarding the observance/celebration of Thanksgiving, I believe our shul, Kesher Israel Congregation (KI) in Harrisburg has found the perfect way to spend the day.

First a disclaimer: My wife, Layala, and I moved to Harrisburg just prior to Rosh Hashanah 5768/2007. As such, I cannot take credit for having come up with KI’s unique Thanksgiving program that began in 2002.

Following the attacks of 9/11, Americans became painfully aware of the daily sacrifices made by our nation’s firefighters. In the months leading up to Thanksgiving 2002, KI’s Rabbi Chaim Schertz (since retired) and Mark Powers (a KI congregant and former volunteer firefighter) began discussing what the shul could do to show its appreciation to the firefighters of Harrisburg.

They came up with the idea of providing a full Thanksgiving meal for those firefighters who would be spending Thanksgiving on call at the fire station rather than at home surrounded by family and friends. This novel idea resonated with the congregation as well as with some of the local supermarkets. Since then, this event has turned into a highly anticipated annual program at our shul.

Here is how it all comes together: Most of the food (including the frozen Empire turkeys) are donated by local supermarkets; other (minimal) costs are covered by donations; and congregants happily volunteer to prepare and cook the food in the shul’skitchen – packing it up, transporting it, and finally serving the full-course Thanksgiving meal to firefighters in the city’s main fire station.

The first shift of firefighters enjoys the feast as their lunch, while the second shift reheats the food and enjoys a wonderful supper.

Needless to say, each year the firefighters are incredibly appreciative, and the shul’s volunteers feel terrific, having been part of something so meaningful. After all, isn’t Thanksgiving the perfect time for a shulto express its hakarat hatov, its appreciation, to those who are willing to risk their lives to keep all of us safe? This annual event is a true Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name, in which everyone is proud to take part.

As one might imagine, the event also makes for a heartwarming story on a day that is usually slow in terms of news. As such, local media outlets are thrilled to carry stories about our annual Kosher Thanksgiving Firefighter’s Feast, thereby maximizing the Kiddush Hashem. (Just go to YouTube.comand enter the words “Kesher Israel Thanksgiving” for an idea of the positive coverage this event has received).

As proud as I am of our shul’s annual Thanksgiving event, I am not writing this to toot our own horn. I want to share Kesher Israel’s Thanksgiving program with as wide a Jewish audience as possible – as I would love to see it replicated by shuls and Jewish institutions across America.

I assure you it will be a rewarding experience for all who participate.

I’ll conclude by sharing one firsthand story.

Last winter, Harrisburg was hit with an incredible amount of snow. One day as I trudged through the waist-high white stuff leading to my front door, I thought of the dreaded shoveling that awaited me. I then noticed and waved to my friendly next-door neighbor – a proud member of the Harrisburg Fire Department who was out snow-blowing his driveway.

He immediately shut his snow blower and trudged on over. While extending his gloved hand he said, “Rabbi, don’t you worry about your sidewalk and walkway. When I’m done with mine, I’m gonna come right over to take care of yours.” When I told him it really was not necessary, he replied, “After all that you and your congregation do for us firefighters, this is the least I can do for you.”

Our shul is happy to show our appreciation to our local firefighters each year on Thanksgiving. I sincerely hope and pray that no one in our community will ever need anything beyond snow-blowing services in return.

Share Button

About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at rabbimales@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Harrisburg’s Annual Thanksgiving Kiddush Hashem”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Mock Eviction Notice shoved under the doors of students' rooms in predominantly Jewish NYU dorm by NYU SJP.
NYU Latest Site of Anti-Israel Mock Eviction Notices
Latest Indepth Stories
Students in Israel get computers to assist in their schoolwork.

Day schools can have boys and girls participate in the same online class but they don’t meet or interact in “real time.”

Richard Falk, FORMER  United Nations Human Rights Council’s Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories.

Jews so hostile to their own people they’ve spun out into the orbit of rabid anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic radicalism.

Breaking the Fw:Fw:Fw Chain

Rav Pam said we must realize that God has no pleasure from such negative speech.

NIF support for BDS groups, writes Black, also included acting as a “go between for other donors….

Brandeis, which had to have known about her record of criticism of Islam, pulled the honor after pressure from a Muslim advocacy group and a number of faculty members and students.

Wherever I was invited around the world, I always met with people and let them know that I wanted to hear great stories.

R. Hadaya strongly argues in favor of establishing a festive day in commemoration of the establishment of the state of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has jailed more than 350 Arabs for “security” reasons in just 2014.

Since Torah is the great equalizer, the great reconciler of divergent but valid opinions, this is also the place where common ground is reached.

Some American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by groups waging war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

More Articles from Rabbi Akiva Males
Males-031414

At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.

Seagate after Hurricane Sandy

In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.

In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.

Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.

“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”

“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”

We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.

No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.

On the first day of this past Rosh Hashanah, I visited Milwaukee while my wife, Layala, traveled back to the shul of her youth in Brooklyn. When we met up later in the day for Yom Tov lunch at our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania home, we had a number of experiences to share with each other.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/harrisburgs-annual-thanksgiving-kiddush-hashem/2010/11/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: