Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! I still remember my first Thanksgiving 50 years ago. We had arrived from Poland a few months earlier that year. One day in November I came home from first grade very excited; I told my mother we needed to buy a turkey. She didn’t know what a turkey was because they are indigenous to America, so I told her to buy a big chicken! This Thanksgiving I am deeply grateful for my 50 years in the US, for all the opportunities I have been given to serve others and for the magnificent life I get to live each day.
Every morning on my commute from Westchester to Manhattan, my train passes the Bronx and I can see the VA Hospital that I watched being built from my childhood bedroom window. I grew up on Kingsbridge Road in a five-story walk up above the candy store my father owned. During the 1970s, the Bronx was an “interesting” place to grow up. Some of my earliest memories are of the recently returned Vietnam vets who came in to order extra sweet egg creams while they were nodding out on heroin. I developed a unique talent by the time I was 10: I could distinguish the kind of drug someone was on. Heroin addicts were always very mellow; it was the crack addicts that I would encounter in the vestibule of my building that made me nervous. The other strong memory I have from growing up in the Bronx in the 70s was coming home from school to the sight of burning buildings. Just around the corner from my home, where a few of my friends lived, large buildings were destroyed by fires daily.
My bedroom faced a busy street and when the weather was warm enough, I would spend Sundays reading the New York Times (which I got from my father’s store below) on the fire escape. My favorite part was the Arts & Leisure section. When I read it, I pictured myself attending Broadway shows and events at Lincoln Center. Although these venues in Manhattan were only 10 miles from my fire escape, they felt very far away.
Last week I attended the HIAS Gala event. HIAS is the refugee organization that rescued my family from persecution and bought us to NYC in 1969. They were founded more than 100 years ago in 1881 to aid Jewish refugees, and continue their important work today for refugees of all faiths around the word. The event was truly spectacular and I am so grateful to be in a position where I can support this amazing organization. If you would like to help me in supporting HIAS, you can donate here.
I share all of this with you as we approach Thanksgiving because I am deeply grateful to live the magnificent life I do and to have the most amazing clients that allow me to serve them by doing the work I love. Remembering where I came from makes it all even more fulfilling. Thank you!