November 22, 2004

Lehman: Happy Thanksgiving

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President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 delivered a Thanksgiving message yesterday afternoon at a multi-faith service held at Temple Beth-El in downtown Ithaca. Lehman offered the main address in a service that featured speakers representing several area congregations, including Temple Beth-El; St. Paul’s United Methodist Church; St Luke’s Lutheran Church; First Church of Christ, Scientist; Forest Home Chapel; Congregation Tikkun V’Or Ithaca Reform Temple; and the Baha’i faith.

The theme of the service was “Focus on Children” and the speakers, who included several children, tailored their remarks to this theme.

Lehman’s speech encompassed both the ideas and history of Thanksgiving and a reflection on the importance of children and remembering the less fortunate around the world.

“Children help to create a community of parents,” Lehman said, discussing everyday experiences common to all parents that create a sense of shared understanding that bring strangers together.

In further analyzing the role of children in society, Lehman said, “Children are important to all humanity because they bring energy and hope to the world.” Discussing the meaning and history of Thanksgiving, Lehman talked about Thanksgiving as a time to come together as a community.

“The pilgrims were thanking God for food and freedom. Both sides [the Native Americans and the Pilgrims] put their religious and political differences aside,” Lehman said.

Lehman went on to talk about the subsequent history of the Thanksgiving holiday, which, he said, did not exist in its current form until the 19th century. New York was the first state to declare a Thanksgiving holiday in 1830, and the holiday was finally recognized nationally in the 1860’s by former President Abraham Lincoln.

According to Lehman, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving in order to extend the holiday shopping season. Twenty-three Democratic governors followed suit in their states, while 23 Republican governors ignored Roosevelt and declared Thanksgiving to be the fifth Thursday in November. Texas and Colorado declared both days as holidays.

Lehman returned to the afternoon’s theme of children to conclude his speech. “It is not yet true that all children will receive adequate health care or not go to bed hungry. We need to confront the disparities in resources in schools and families,” Lehman said.

The service was organized by Area Congregations Together (ACT), a local organization of religious congregations committed to community service and interfaith understanding.

“It’s an organization of any congregation that’s willing to participate,” said Roy Wollney, a board member of ACT. ACT is perhaps best known for its annual CROP Walk, an event held downtown to raise money to combat hunger. In addition to individual walkers and fundraisers, various local and national businesses participated in the event, ranging from the Ithaca Farmers Market to Wal-Mart.

“Twenty-five percent [of the donated] food goes locally and the rest is distributed all over the world,” Wollney said.

The audience consisted of members of the Ithaca community, ranging from children to seniors. The temple was filled, with extra chairs provided to accommodate the overflow. After the services, a reception was held in the basement.

“My daughter participated in the beginning of the service. I really am delighted for all the people who came here who don’t usually come to our congregation,” said Marjorie Hoffman, a member of Temple Beth-El.

Archived article by Daniel Palmadesso
Sun Staff Writer