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Thanksgivukkah offers family time

Unique holiday convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah changes Jewish celebrations this year

Posted: November 22, 2013 11:06 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2013 11:06 p.m.

Wendy Hersh, local musician and Temple Beth Ami member, performed for the children during story time. Hersh sang and played instruments during several songs for the Hanukkah story time event.

Next Thursday, a once in a life time event will take place. For the second time since 1888, Jewish Americans will celebrate a convergence between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is early this year, very early. The first day falls on Thanksgiving. A very rare occurrence which will not happen again during our lifetimes. The next time it will happen is more than 70,000 years from now.

The rare double celebration has been fondly dubbed by many as Thanksgivukkah. It offers Jews a chance to combine traditions and for some, more time to spend with family.

This year, with many people going out of town to visit family or planning their own gatherings, Temple Beth Ami planned a special Hanukkah reading at the library early.

Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami, gathered groups of young children at all three Santa Clarita area libraries earlier this week to tell the story of Hanukkah. He read Hanukkah Haiku and shared the meaning of the holiday.

“Hanukkah is already a long holiday, but the way it overlaps this year with Thanksgiving it makes it even longer,” said Blazer. “We will be celebrating for a good chunk of the next three weeks.”

Temple Beth Ami hosted library readings this past week, will offer synagogue services next week and the annual Hanukkah lighting ceremony at the mall the week after.  

A natural combination
Rob Hershenson, Temple Beth Ami member, says the unique Thanksgivukkah holiday offers his family more time to be together during Hanukkah celebrations.

Businesses typically don’t close for Hanukkah, like they would for Thanksgiving. The combination offers families time off work and school during Hanukkah when they normally wouldn’t have it.

“We usually rush home from work to celebrate,” said Hershenson. “This year it’s nice that the first four nights of Hanukkah many businesses will be closed for Thanksgiving.”

Congregation Beth Shalom opted to forgo many of the typical Hanukkah services because of the combined holiday.

They will host a service on the second day of Hanukkah, with a special guest cantor. The synagogue decided to limit other events since many people will be out of town, but will also participate in the community lighting at the mall.

Rabbi Ronald Haus said many families will combine the two traditions. Some will add the lighting of the menorah to the Thanksgiving table. Hershenson’s family plans to eat latkes instead of mashed potatoes, play dreidel and feast on a kosher turkey.

“Because the two holidays have similar themes they easily work together,” Haus said.

Hanukkah celebrates an act of religious rebellion from the Syrians, an escape from imposed religious rule and the miracle of the burning oil. Thanksgiving celebrates the Pilgrims right for religious freedom from England.

“Its a natural connection between the two,” Haus said. “They both speak of what people will do for the right to worship God in the way they choose.”


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