Eitan participated in the pre-Thanksgiving potluck dinner hosted by Shelanu, a program for young Jewish adults on the autism spectrum. Shelanu is supported by UJA and operated by our nonprofit partner Westchester Jewish Community Services.

It’s never too early to give thanks.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, over 40 people turned out to celebrate at Shelanu’s pre-Thanksgiving potluck dinner. Shelanu, a program for young Jewish adults on the autism spectrum, has hosted the annual dinner the past six years, inviting program participants and their families and friends. Hebrew for “Ours,” Shelanu is supported by UJA and operated by our nonprofit partner Westchester Jewish Community Services.

“For some, this may be their only opportunity to have a Thanksgiving dinner. For everyone, it’s a time to share and appreciate each other,” says Robin Davies-Small, Shelanu program coordinator. “It’s a time to bring together participants and everyone who supports Shelanu, including representatives from synagogues and other agencies. We gather outside of the daily hustle and bustle and enjoy each other.”

Shelanu provided Thanksgiving staples, including kosher turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, and veggies. Participants and their families brought their homemade specialties, including kosher matzah stuffing. And no problem if someone didn’t feel like cooking. A bottle of seltzer or store-bought dessert was equally welcome. Like any good potluck, hospitality counted most.

As the evening progressed, a grateful spirit spread throughout the room. During a “giving thanks” session, everyone had a chance to share an experience or say what they’re grateful for.

Eitan, a Shelanu participant, expressed gratitude for “the program providing me with a reason to get out of my house.”

A parent of a Shelanu participant shared a similar sentiment.

“I’m thankful for Shelanu that helps my daughter be the best she can be. I’ve seen a lot of growth in her. I couldn’t have done this alone. It’s because of all her friends and people in the program.”