This year, I was blessed to spend Thanksgiving Day with my grandson Asher and his mother Stephanie in cold, cold Ozark, Mo. To them, and the entire Clark clan, Thanksgiving Day with sunshine and a daytime high of 49 degrees, was nice and warm. To a person (Yours Truly) who was raised in sunny South Florida, that was long-john-wearing weather. And I am happy to report that I remembered to bring mine along with me. They sure felt good and comfy.
It also felt good and comfy to be accepted by people who had never met me. The trip to Missouri was a long one; I had a three-hour layover in Houston. Asher is the son of my younger son Shawn, who lives in Rhode Island, and I didn’t know Asher’s mom’s family at all. So I had a lot of time to pray and think about how I would be received by these people I'd never met. I would soon learn there was no need for concern.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Stephanie drove me to Mansfield, which is about an hour away from Ozark, to meet her parents — Teresa and Rod Clark. There was no awkward handshaking between us; just warm hugs. I sat at the kitchen table as Teresa mixed the cornbread for the stuffing while Rod picked the meat off the chicken bones, some of which would later be added to the cornbread mixture. I felt right at home.
The next day at the Thanksgiving dinner, Teresa asked me to say the blessing. It was the first Thanksgiving without my son Rick, so I was feeling a little sad. Still, it never ceases to amaze me how the Lord can take sadness and turn it into gladness.
We held hands, forming a raggedy circle. I'd barely started the prayer when the feeling of gratitude overwhelmed me so, that I could hardly get the words out. Aside from Asher, I was the lone black person among Stephanie's more than two dozen white family members. I never felt out of place.
Looking back on that wonderful day, I 'm just realizing that it wasn't the long johns that kept me warm. It was the outpouring of love from people, who only a few hours before, had been total strangers.
Science and religion
Have you ever had questions about the universe, the role medical breakthroughs play in conception or genetic engineering, or just life in general? These and other questions will be discussed at the Tenth Miami International Torah and Science Conference, to take place Dec. 13-16 at the Shul of Bal Harbour, 9540 Collins Ave. in Surfside.
The title of the three-day conference is "Beginnings, Endings and Renewals," and it will feature presentations by 15 scientific, academic and religious leaders from North America and Israel. It will begin with a pre-conference Shabbat evening dinner with the scientists/speakers on Dec. 13. Rabbi Simon Jacobson, author of Toward a Meaningful Life and founder of The Meaningful Life Center in New York, will be the speaker at the Shabbat dinner.
The conference will begin at 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 14, with the program "Beginning of Life," and will feature bioethicist John D. Loike of Columbia University, Israel Prize laureate Rabbi Abraham Steinberg of Hebrew University and Shaare Hospital, and Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler of Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, the spiritual leader of the Shul of Bal Harbour, is the founder and chief organizer of the Torah and Science Conference, and will present the opening remarks at the Dec. 14 evening session.
Other organizers include Nathan Katz, founder and director of Florida International University's Program in the Study of Spirituality in the School of International and Public Affairs, where he is a Distinguished Professor, and Joseph Bodenheimer, professor of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology, and editor-in-chief of B'Or Ha'Torah, a journal on interrelationship of Judaism, science and technology, psychology, the arts, and social sciences
The conference is free and open to the public. However, the cost of the Friday night dinner is $40 for Shul members, $50 for non members and half the adult rate for children under 13. Advance reservations and payment are required. To RSVP, call The Shul at 305-868-1411, ext. 0. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show tunes and Jewish music
The North Miami Community Center Band will perform a concert of music from Broadway shows and traditional Jewish music at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 12, at Temple Beth Shalom, 4144 Chase Ave. in Miami Beach.
The program is presented by the Inter-American Chapter of Hadassah. The cost is a contribution of $10 per person.