From Where I Sit

As Thanksgiving nears, columnists are wont to put aside weightier topics and give thanks for this or that.

So, Jewishly speaking, I am thankful for:

My wife, our three children and our extended families.

The memory of my father and the health of my mother.

Conversations with my favorite rabbi, my brother in New Jersey.

The multigenerational family celebration this summer as my nephew married a rabbinical student, a woman who Dave Schechterwill serve with distinction whatever pulpit she ascends.

My “new” cousins from the Cuban branch on the family tree (descended from my great-grandfather’s twin brother, who settled in Palestine in the late 1800s), whose families spent decades building lives on the island but left everything behind when the Communists took over.

My great-aunt Amy, whose life as an American Communist I have researched for 16 years, work that has enhanced my awareness of my forebears and put me in touch with a fascinating range of people.

Our congregation’s first permanent home, 28 years in the making.

The manner in which our rabbi challenges the congregation to meld Jewish values and social action, recognizing that there may not be unanimity on every issue.

Our congregation’s Shabbat Shirah and choir concert, which rock the house.

The Atlanta Men’s Synagogue Softball League, which provides the opportunity to remember what it was like to run, hit and throw with the abandon of youth and where you can count on sympathy and maybe an ice pack when you pull up lame trying to stretch a single into a double.

The Marcus JCC staff and volunteers who coordinate the participation of Team Atlanta in the JCC Maccabi Games.

Jews, Muslims and Christians who gather, talk and break bread together not because it is fashionable, but because by doing so future generations will have healthier relationships than what their elders inherited.

The Jews who turned out to support an Atlanta mosque when bigots vowed to threaten the tranquility of worship inside (but failed to show).

The Jews from numerous congregations who marched in the Pride Parade and support SOJOURN: Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

Jewish Family & Career Services for counseling that encouraged me to embark on a different path when the one I trod for many years came to an end.

The privilege of time spent with Holocaust survivors and hearing the tales told by their children.

Those who shine light into its history’s dark corners, such as efforts to remember the Leo Frank lynching.

The Atlanta Jewish film, music and book festivals.

American Jews of any political stripe who avoid absolutist positions and acknowledge shades of gray rather than seeing everything related to Israel in black-and-white terms.

American Jews who overcome a communal tendency toward self-censorship because expressing a diversity of opinions should strengthen, not weaken, ties with Israel.

American Jews who can discuss, debate and write about Jewish affairs and Israel without resorting to recrimination, name-calling and debasing those with whom they disagree.

American Jews who support organizations and institutions that promote a democratic, pluralistic future for Israel.

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, where Israelis and Arabs study, work and live together, understanding that “nature has no borders.”

The wealth of Jewish news, cultural reporting and opinion available online.

The opportunity this newspaper provides me to research and write on substantive subjects — ranging from Holocaust survivors to the Frank lynching to Jewish relations with the Catholic Church — and all of those in the community who have shared their time and knowledge with me.

The opportunity to write this column every other week.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and the Middle East.