Thanksgiving is the holiday to which most American Jews fully relate. It's based on the biblical Sukkot, and it's the American holiday most associated with family gatherings and food. And yet, there is much more to the holiday than stuffing and pumpkin pie.
Statistics show that while hunger and food insecurity are on the rise, so is our ability to deal with the problem. Through a combination of emergency feeding agencies (like the Foodbank) and impactful government programs (like food stamps and reduced-price school breakfasts), we have the capacity to end hunger for good.
Each year our congregation travels to a different corner of the Jewish world, and last Tisha B'Av, the day commemorating persecutions and destructions that have befallen the Jewish people, we found ourselves in Berlin.
Each year, our congregation visits a different corner of the Jewish world. This year we traveled to Scandinavia and our first stop was Stockholm, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Sweden is green and vibrant and its capital city is surrounded by water. Many of us took a 10-minute ferry to Old Town each day and sat in cafes that have been in continuous use since the 1700s.
Every other year, our congregation travels to a different part of the Jewish world to meet and, if necessary, help our fellow Jews. Having traveled to Israel, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union many times, as well as Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Argentina and Brazil, our experiences have mostly been with communities under political, demographic or economic siege. This trip was different.
New Zealand has never been considered a center of Jewish life, but since our congregation, University Synagogue, was visiting Australia, we decided to hop over (1,200 miles) to this incredibly beautiful country.
The next day, we were deeply moved at the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation -- named after the county so as not to be called the "Christchurch Synagogue" -- where our hosts, Dr. David Cohen, a local professor originally from Fresno and a graduate of UCLA, and Dr. Ali Wegner, originally from Buenos Aires and Chicago, introduced us to their synagogue. They moved to what many would consider yenne velt (the end of the earth) to live at a slower pace with serenity and security.
One of the best University Synagogue tours ever was our 2000 trip to Argentina and Brazil. Both countries were physically beautiful and Jewishly fascinating, and the speakers with whom we met were unforgettable.
Since that time, however, Argentina has been reduced to terrible economic straits, and its once-thriving middle class is in danger of disappearing. That middle class made Argentina unique in South America, where polarization between rich and poor is the norm.
Dr. Pauline Glanzberg Rachlis, died June 8, at the age of 90.