Showing Thanks to Those Who Protect Us

Showing+Thanks+to+Those+Who+Protect+Us

Rebecca Massel ’21

“The whole room felt joyful and celebratory,” said Jonas Kahan ’21, an attendee of the pre-Thanksgiving dinner for veterans. On Tuesday, November 20, thirty US veterans visited Ramaz to celebrate an early holiday with over thirty students.

The whole room felt joyful and celebratory”

— Jonas Kahan ’21

Each veteran was a member of Samaritan Daytop Village, a human services agency which offers various programs to aid those in need. The program seeks to help substance abusers, integrate homeless people into the workforce, and show compassion to senior citizens. Samaritan Daytop Village is known for having pioneered programs that help American veterans overcome the challenges of life after serving in the military. Indeed, Samaritan Village provides massive amounts of support to thousands of veterans struggling with addiction or from post traumatic stress disorder. The agency currently has three residential treatment facilities for veterans, including the country’s first facility designed exclusively for women.

The pre-Thanksgiving dinner was organized by Ramaz’s own Mrs. Dee Dee Benel and Ms. Beverly Houston, the Director of Program Operations at Samaritan Village. A group of students organized and decorated the Ramaz auditorium to create a seasonal, warm atmosphere. “The fall leaves, pumpkins, and acorns created a real Thanksgiving vibe,” said Lauren Lepor ’21. The meal included cold cuts, deli rolls, pasta, salad, and crudite. All of the food was generously provided by an anonymous donor.

At 4:45 PM,  a group of thirty students welcomed the veterans into the auditorium. Once everyone was seated, Ms. Benel welcomed everyone and spoke briefly about care packages that Ramaz had diligently sent out to active combat soldiers, noting that she saves every thank you letter sent to her from a soldier who receives one of these packages. Ms. Houston then briefly explained the role Samaritan Daytop Village plays in the lives of veterans. She stressed the importance of recognizing veterans and how much they love being welcomed home by their fellow Americans. According to Ms. Houston, veterans rarely receive the appreciation they deserve, so when they are invited out or visited, it is extremely meaningful. Following Ms. Houston’s remarks, a veteran expressed his gratitude toward Ramaz and how great a small act of kindness means to him. He told the students about a care package he still remembers receiving while overseas forty years ago. After the meal, the veterans passed around a microphone and introduced themselves.

The night also featured live entertainment. Cameryn Guetta ’19 sang a beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which was accompanied by acoustic guitar played by Nathan Haron ’19 and piano played by Isaac Merkin ’19. The three seniors also played a few old-school, upbeat tunes. The veterans loved the music, and especially enjoyed singing along to songs by the Beatles. Abraham Coburn ’21 said, “The music really brought the whole event together. It connected us to the veterans.”

The music really brought the whole event together. It connected us to the veterans.”

— Abraham Coburn ’21

During the meal, veterans sat side-by-side with Ramaz students and shared their life stories. After the meal, veterans gave bracelets they had been wearing to students to serve as a constant reminder of the sacrifices every veteran makes. Mati Finkelstein ’22 said, “I was sitting next to a veteran named Bobby and had a very deep conversation with him. Bobby gave me a bracelet he received from an American girl while he was serving to always remind me to pass on his story.”

To end off the event, the veterans ate pumpkin pie, cookies, and fruit for dessert. As they were leaving, each veteran received a package with Israeli chips, soda, and candy. Ms. Benel said, “We want to show our veterans that, with everything going on in politics nowadays, we as Jews always remember to practice hakarat hatov. We appreciate all they have done.”

Overall, the event was a success and all who attended seemed to have enjoyed themselves. The students had the opportunity to learn about the true meaning of Thanksgiving, and the veterans received some much-needed gratitude in return. Mati Finkelstein ’22 explained, “The evening honestly encouraged me to consider joining the army. This was much more personal than hearing about soldiers or wars on the news, and now I will view world events in a new way.”

The evening honestly encouraged me to consider joining the army. This was much more personal than hearing about soldiers or wars on the news, and now I will view world events in a new way.”

— Mati Finkelstein ’22