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Thanksgivukkah: A Once in a Lifetime Celebration

Special To The Alternative Press

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 • 7:36pm

RANDOLPH,NJ- While American families are busy stuffing their turkey this week, Jewish American families will be stuffing their turkeys and frying their latkes at the very same time.Thanksgivikkah is the once in a lifetime convergence of the Thanksgiving and Hanukkah celebrations. It promises to create a unique moment in the households of Jewish families around the country and here in Randolph.

The Jewish, or Hebrew calendar, is set by the moon. The Gregorian calendar is ruled by the sun. Through some strange twist of mathematics, the two holidays converge on the calendar this year.  Hanukkah begins at sundown on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. The first full day of the eight day festival will be celebrated on Thursday, November 28, 2013.

Although it seems to pose a problem as to which traditional foods to eat, and how to include family rituals, Thanksgivvikah has given rise to an explosion of creative ideas, language, crafts, and recipes.

Melissa Weiner, Director of Jewish Learning at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston and a Randolph resident, knows that throughout the country Jewish institutions have sought ways to honor this rare occurrence. “From Jewish preschools creating menurkeys (part turkey and part menorah) to sweet potato latkes with cranberry applesauce, this new breed of holiday has a lot of people trying to honor both histories,” says Weiner, “Both holidays share an important legacy."

Both the Maccabees and Pilgrims were seeking religious freedom. "For our country, and for the Jewish people, the desire to be religiously free is at the center of the creation of America,”  Weiner said. For years, she has led workshops for students and parents on the idea of “Thanks and Giving” encouraging families to consider giving tzedakah (charity) at their Thanksgiving table.  Now, with the two holidays happening at the same time, Weiner also said, " It is even more urgent to educate people on how similar these stories are, and how imperative it is to count our blessings by not only saying thanks, but also helping others."

Next week at the Weiner house, when grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends converge in Randolph, all of these important lessons will come to the table.  Their family will take a moment to recite the Shehecheyanu, a Jewish prayer of thanksgiving. Additionally, she and her older daughter Emily, a Randolph High School Junior, will make a trip the Saturday night  of Thanksgiving weekend to deliver food and clothing to homeless families in Newark.

It will take almost another 80,000 years for this strange convergence to happen again.  So in the meantime, the Jewish community is responding with humor and thoughtful thanks for the bounty and safety America provides for its citizens.

 

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