Lila Corwin Berman is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Class XIII and an Associate Professor of history at Temple University, where she holds the Murray Friedman Chair in American Jewish History and directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.  Lila can be reached at 

By the time you read this, we’ll have driven from Philadelphia to Springfield, MA.  The drive will have been peaceful, children will have slept the whole way, and at every moment of decision, my husband and I will have mutually chosen the fastest, least trafficked route, leaving time for long relaxed conversations.  But right now, the journey still ahead of us, I have a spreadsheet on my computer desktop.  My aunt made it, dividing each day of the long holiday—Thanksgiving and then Shabbat—into multiple columns and rows, each column a meal, each row a family.  With characteristic efficiency, she has drawn a map for our time together course by course.  It’s the kind of map that tells me where to go before I get there and helps me imagine what it will be like when I get there.  I read it with fascination, over and over, each time seeing something anew.  It is directive and totally participatory; it represents a collective and is individualized; its rigidity engenders spontaneity; it’s about the future but grounded in the past and aware of the constraints of the present.  It is my family—all of us together, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, and siblings—at its very best.  Meals structure time.  We move through them and because we know what they are and know we are part of the whole, we feel at ease and relaxed (and full, always, full).

During this period of thanksgiving, may we all have meals with the ones we love, and the ones who lead us to see the best in orselves, our families, and our communities.