Thanksgiving Day Message

from Rabbi Brian

Friends, before we sit down to an incredible repast with friends and family, let’s take a moment to show our appreciation for the many things we have in our lives that we should be grateful for. In the rush of daily life, we don’t stop long enough to realize just how good we have it.

So, I would like to take a few minutes of your time to share some of the reasons I am so thankful this year. Not just this month, but all year.

This has been a challenging year for everyone, and especially Jews around the world:

  • There has been a huge increase in antisemitic speech and incidents everywhere (even in our quiet little valley).  I have been asked to speak to churches, to Kiwanis, on TV and radio.  “What do we do about all the hate?” they ask us.
  • The war in Ukraine has torn millions from their homes, and took the lives of many innocent people.
  • Homelessness seems have to doubled in just a few years.
  • Mass shootings seem to be weekly news items all over our country.

How do we persevere despite this overwhelming bad news?

  • I have convinced this lovely woman to share my life and join our warm loving CSOA family.
  • Our loving La Crosse neighbors reached out to support our Jewish community in the best way possible. They have greatly increased school and church tours of our synagogue, they have reached out with love, support, donations.  We have also ramped up our involvement with the La Crosse Interfaith Leaders Coalition, LISSN and the Hunger Task Force.
  • We participate in Mayor Mitch Reynolds’ advisory group on homelessness, trying to find solutions despite all the obstacles.
  • I had a couple of personal health issues, including COVID a month ago, to be cured due to miracle vaccine boosters and antiviral meds.
  • Several new families have joined our congregation this year.  Several potential members have moved into the region.
  • Our live and Zoom attendance at Shabbat services and other events continues to be strong.  We have new service leaders and Torah chanters.
  • A couple of our Judaism students are approaching the exciting point of going to the Mikveh and joining our Jewish community.
  • Our members delivered Mobile Meals for three weeks this year, providing hot meals to people at home.
  • At the La Crosse County Jail, our members visit several inmates every week and lead monthly religious services.
  • We have become a member of a cohort of 18 small congregations over a 4-state region.  We continue to provide meaningful programming on a frequent basis.
  • We have taken steps to provide a safer and more secure synagogue building, thanks to help from the Federal and state government, as well as the La Crosse law enforcement, FBI, and especially the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
  • Your fellow CSOA members have spent months organizing the La Crosse Welcome Circle, designed to ease the transition of Ukrainian refugees to their new lives in La Crosse.  Our first families have arrived, their kids are in our schools… Many more to come!
  • How do I answer the “hate” question? I tell them the ONLY response is “ve-ahavta lerayacha kamocha!”

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!