Stories of Thanksgiving
A member of Temple University’s Center for Social Policy and Community Development is among those telling their stories in a Thanksgiving reader published by the American Jewish Committee
The oft-used phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” could be the story of Harold Brooks’ life.
Brooks, who works as the education coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services’ Achieving Independence program through the Center for Social Policy and Community Development at Temple University, was raised in an impoverished section of St. Louis in the 1960s.
But he was fortunate to have people who took an interest in him, Brooks said. He had a group of African-American teachers who pushed him to excel academically, a group of Jesuit priests who reinforced these lessons through an enrichment program, and a Jewish shopkeeper who provided him with a source of income by allowing Brooks to work for him on weekends.
Most importantly, he had a mother and father who taught him to think of others, Brooks said.
“The work that I do now was inspired by my parents,” he said. “They taught me to try and make the world a better place.”
Through the Achieving Independence program, Brooks puts those lessons into practice by helping students make the most of their lives through academics by tutoring them and encouraging them to go to college. And because he internalized and shared the teachings of his parents and many mentors over the years, he is now part of a new Thanksgiving reader.
The nationally released book, titled America’s Table: A Thanksgiving Reader, is published by the American Jewish Committee and features eight stories that illustrate the diversity that is America. One of the stories features Brooks’ story of meeting a Jesuit priest and later going to his boarding school. America’s Table is designed to be a book that loved ones gathered at the holiday table can read together.
At an event to premier the book held at Temple‘s Diamond Club and hosted by the American Jewish Committee’s Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey chapter, Brooks was honored by a wide range of people. Included were his colleagues from Operation Understanding, an organization that was co-founded by the Urban League and the AJC to promote better relationships between Jewish and African-American youth — and for which Brooks is co-president, the Woodrock Foundation, the Achieving Independence Center, and the Center for Social Policy and Community Development.
“Harold is a great treasure and a resource for Temple University and Operation Understanding,” said John Trudeau, head of the Center for Social Policy and Community Development. “He’s a great representative of this whole idea of America’s Table. He makes sure that people have opportunities.”
In addition to Brooks, others sharing their stories in the book include former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta; Guillermo Linares, New York City’s Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs; Daniella Levine, head of the Human Services Coalition of Dade County; and Rebecca Tsosie, an Arizona State law professor and champion of Native American rights.
It wasn’t a project that he had intended to be a part of, Brooks said.
“I was asked if I knew anyone that [AJC] could profile for the book,” he said. “I submitted the names of 10 people that I thought would be good, and AJC’s representative in New York contacted me about them. But they decided to choose me. I’m thrilled and honored.”
”America’s Table: A Thanksgiving Reader” is available at the area’s three Whole Foods stores, and at www.ajc.org and by contacting the AJC’s offices at 215-665-2300.
- Denise Clay