Sunday, December 01, 2013

Deena Yellin on Thanksgivukkah

I like this article and am honored that this journalist remembered me from years ago and contacted me for comments.


Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Jewish community embraces ‘Thanksgivukkah’ with inventive delight, serious reflection


When your religious commemoration coincides once-in-a-blue-moon with a national holiday of giving thanks, there’s only one thing to do: Celebrate “Thanksgivukkah” with panache.

From making “menurkeys” (a turkey-shaped menorah) to cooking up doughnuts combining cranberry and sweet potato, North Jersey’s Jewish community is taking inventive delight in concocting something special for the rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. But it’s also taking serious note of the parallels of religious freedom thematic in both fetes.

Thanksgiving was established by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 as the last Thursday in November, and that matched up with Hanukkah in 1888. Thanksgiving was later changed to the fourth Thursday.

Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, comes early this year, began Wednesday night, with the first full day falling out today. This convergence last happened in 1888 and it won’t happen again, according to some calculations, for almost 80,000 years.

The overlap has triggered happy creativity: commemorative T-shirts, a Facebook page, an array of silly songs on YouTube and cuisine art including the aforementioned “menurkey” and turkey-shaped dreidels called “turkels.”

“It’s culinary heaven!” exclaimed Stuart Reichman, a Teaneck chef. “The flavors of autumn mix nicely with Hanukkah’s freshly made potato latkes and jelly doughnuts!” This year, he’s cooked up the traditional Hanukkah jelly sufganiot (doughnuts) with cranberry and sweet potato fillings for a Thanksgiving twist. He’s also serving turkey with chestnut-and-sage potato pancakes in lieu of stuffing.

Rabbi David Seth Kirschner, leader of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, will discuss the rare calendar quirk’s common historical thread in his Saturday sermon this weekend.

“I will speak about being the inheritors of the Maccabees and the Pilgrims at the same time,” he said. “I think the reason Jews have done so well in this country is because it’s a land that allows people to be who they are. All the values that brought people to this shore and all the values that they sought in this country — freedom of expression and freedom of religion — were the same for the Pilgrims as it was for the Jews, and that’s why Jews have thrived here. Core to our religion is to individuate and celebrate individually.”

December 1, 2013 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Hanukkah commemorates the triumph more than 2,178 years ago of Jewish rebels, or Maccabees, who fought for religious freedom against the Syrian-Greek empire. When the victorious Jews tried to rededicate their temple, they found only one day’s worth of lamp oil to burn, symbolizing the divine presence. But the oil burned for eight days, and Jews often celebrate the miracle of the oil by eating foods cooked in oil, such as potato latkes and doughnuts. Although Hanukkah is not considered a major Jewish festival, it is a joyous one celebrated by most Jews around the globe.

The dates of the eight-day celebration are calculated according to the lunar-based Hebrew calendar. This year, the second night of Hanukkah, when the second candle on the menorah is lit, falls on Thanksgiving night.

That coincidence has brought more customers into Ma’adan Take Home Foods Inc. in Teaneck, said owner Stuart Kahan.

“I love it!” he said. “We’re doing 40 percent more orders this year. Most people are opting to kill two birds with one stone by making their family Hanukkah parties on Thanksgiving instead of the Sunday of Hanukkah.”

The confluence has altered the usual Hanukkah menu of brisket, potato latkes and jelly doughnuts, he said. A traditionalist, Kahan has refused — during 31 years in business — to make any latke other than potato for Hanukkah. This year, bowing to what he calls the “unique circumstances of the calendar” he agreed to create a sweet potato latke, which has been selling like, well, hot cakes. “Unless I live to be a really old man, this will be the only time in history that we will sell them,” he said.

“Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday,” said Teaneck Councilman Elie Katz. “Now it’s just enhanced with gifts!” The owner of Chopstix Chinese Restaurant in Teaneck, he said he added deep-fried poultry specials to the menu as a nod to both holidays.

Mayor Sophie Heymann of Closter is serving an elegant Thanksgivukkah dinner for a crowd of family and friends. “We will light the Hanukkah candles before dinner. And instead of ordinary canapés, I will serve mini latkes with apple sauce,” she said. “In honor of Thanksgiving, we will bless our bread, which will be a home-baked challah.”

The table decorations will include plastic dreidels and Hanukkah gelt (gold chocolate coins) together with Indian corn and dried hot peppers.

Steve Goldberg of Clifton will stuff his Thanksgiving turkey with Hanukkah gelt. “This year the Miracle of Hanukkah will be that we will have the turkey last for eight days,” he quipped.

Joan Weiner, a Teaneck comedian, added, “I love that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall out together this year. We’re inviting our more-Orthodox Hasidic black-hat relatives over, and just pretending they’re the Pilgrims.”

Rabbi Neil Fleischmann, a teacher at The Frisch School in Paramus, feels every day is one of thanksgiving, particularly after an accident involving his father.

“My father fell down a flight of stairs six months ago and miraculously survived. I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with him, maybe ordering Chinese food for dinner — and being thankful that he is alive.”

Fleischmann said the two holidays mesh well. “I told my class that this idea of being so grateful for what you get that you put yourself out, is relevant to both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.”

Serious message aside, though, he had to add: Thanksgivukkah could have been more aptly named “Thanks a-Latke.”


December 1, 2013 at 5:20 PM  

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