Thanksgivukkah serves up once-in-lifetime opportunities

In a rare and incredible align- ment of the Jewish and Gregorian calendars, the first full day of the sacred holiday of Hanukkah and the secular all-American feast day of Thanksgiving collide head-on today to create a hybrid holiday many have cleverly dubbed Thanksgivukkah.

Just how unusual is it? Religion scholars say the next time the holidays will converge on the same day won’t happen until the year 79,811. Clearly then, this is the first and last chance for Americans of all faiths to officially revel in the hallowed traditions of both holidays simultaneously. In the overlapping spirit of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, it is an opportunity no one should pass up.

At first glance, the two holidays appear to be as different as night and day, as dissimilar as the plump American roasted turkey and the Jewish fried potato latke. On closer inspection, however, both share some amazing similarities in their common roots, traditions and purposes.

After all, the origins of both holidays can be traced to the quest for religious freedom. As Rabbi Joseph Schonberger of Temple El Emeth in Liberty pointed out in a Vindicator story published Wednesday, Hanukkah recalls the story of the Maccabees who won religious freedom by defeating the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C. The Pilgrims came to America to escape religious intolerance in England.

And as former President Franklin D. Roosevelt observed, America has long been a welcome refuge for Christians and Jews in search of our core ideals of freedom and liberty. Freedom from want “is what the Jews have found in America. It’s what Pilgrims found in America,” FDR declared.

Both holidays also revel in family home- comings and scrumptious food. Rabbi Mischel Zion, co-director of the Bronfman Fellowships, notes that both holidays are less religious in observances and more family oriented. “They are both home holidays,” he said.


And while both Jews and Gentiles fittingly will gorge themselves today in turkey or brisket, mashed potatoes or kugel, and cranberries or challah, the one overriding link between the two holidays should remain paramount. Both are premised on giving thanks.

As Zion aptly points out, “They both are holidays of gratitude after facing adversity.” Hanukkah is a day when Jews give thanks for an end to oppression and for religious liberty. Thanks- giving is a day when Americans of all stripes give thanks for blessings large and small in their personal lives, their families and their communities.

As individuals and family members, most all of us have those good old reliable reasons to give thanks to our loved ones who have supported us, nurtured us and stuck by us through hardship and happiness.

Yet amid the optimism at the start of the season of joy, lingering signs of adversity endure. Many will not enjoy the Norman Rockwell version of Thanksgiving Day today. About 40,000 children in the Mahoning Valley live in poverty. The Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley is assisting record numbers of people with basic foodstuffs for survival.

That is why the “giving” aspect of Thanks- giving and of Hanukkah continue to demand special attention and action today and throughout the holiday season. Opportunities abound in our community to do so. In giving thanks and in providing meaningful contributions to others in need, Valley residents of all religious persuasions can live up to the noble ideals of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

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