Local synagogues will celebrate Thanksgivukkah

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

This holiday season, the Jewish community will have a lot to celebrate due to the rare overlap of two major holidays in what has been coined “Thanksgivukkah.”

This year marks the first time in 125 years that two fall holidays will be happening on the same day: Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of every November, will be on November 28 this year and the first day of Hanukkah, which falls on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, will also be this upcoming Thursday.

The Hebrew calendar is lunar and has fewer days than the solar Gregorian calendar so the former occasionally adds in a month to compensate.

“It wasn’t just Hanukkah that was early this year, it was everything,” said Bram Weiser, who is involved with the American Sign Language-interpreted services at Town & Village Synagogue. “And (November 28) is the last possible day to have Thanksgiving, so they overlap.”

There is also some controversy on whether or not the two holidays will converge at another point on the two calendars but if they do, most estimates say it won’t happen for at least another 70,000 years.

Regardless of whether or not the overlap will happen again, some local synagogues are taking advantage of this most likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and combining their celebrations.

Town & Village Synagogue on East 14th Street will be offering a joint celebration this Friday with an ASL-interpreted service at 6 p.m. followed by a Hanukkah-themed dinner at 7 p.m.

The Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park won’t be hosting a meal but it will be hosting its second annual concert featuring Eyal Vilner’s Big Band with Big Latkes and Lots’a Vodkas on Saturday at 8 p.m. The synagogue’s most recent newsletter featured a turkey playing a trumpet along with a menorah to promote the event and there was a Buzzfeed link included with suggestions for Thanksgivukkah recipes, such as potato latkes with cranberry applesauce, Maneschewitz-brined turkey and challah-apple stuffing.

Rabbi Larry Sebert of Town & Village Synagogue said that he has always thought there were intrinsic similarities between the two holidays.

“Hanukkah has origins in the fall holiday of Sukkot, which marks the wandering in desert and the fall harvest, and many people suggest that Thanksgiving is also modeled on the Feast of Tabernacles, the fall biblical festival of thanksgiving,” he said.

Weiser added that he’s noticed parallels between the two as well.
“One could apply Judaic concepts to Thanksgiving or vice versa,” Weiser said. “Jews often give thanks to God for different things and here is a day when that is the focus so you can blend the two together.”

Sebert noted that he’s looking forward to the overlap of the holidays.

“They should happen together every year,” he said. “They really do match in tenor and origin of the holidays and from that perspective, it adds a nice layer to this year’s celebration of Hanukkah. That often gets lost in the commercialization but this brings us back to the importance of the holiday. It’s a raising of our consciousness and a festival of gratitude for the bounty of our lives.”

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