November 28, 2013 by · Comments Off on Thanksgiving 

Thanksgiving, The coincidence this year of Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah is very unusual – it last happened in 1888. But in a way it’s fitting, as American Jews have been embracing Thanksgiving for more than two centuries.

By the time the first of eight candles in Jewish menorah were lit on Wednesday evening for the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, the country was largely closed down for Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the most commonly cited calculation, not only has this not happened for 125 years, but it won’t happen again for more than 70,000 years.

That is because the Jewish calendar is shifting in relation to the Gregorian calendar very, very slowly… at a rate of four days every 1,000 years.

It’s thanks to a quirk of both calendars that 2013 has this curious new amalgam: Thanksgivukkah.

The term was coined, and trademarked, by a marketing specialist called Dana Gitell, who teamed up with an online Jewish gift shop to sell T-shirts and other memorabilia.

Among the items on sale are a “menurkey” – a menorah shaped like a turkey – designed by a nine-year-old New Yorker, whose family say they have sold thousands at $50 a piece.

There’s a Facebook page with more than 13,000 “likes”, a #Thanksgivukkah hashtag on Twitter, and a large number of YouTube music videos of varying quality.

Thanksgiving food:

Hanukkah food:

Perhaps the most common online discussion topic is food, and ideas for “mash-up” recipes that combine festive delicacies from both sides – from potato latkes with cranberry applesauce to rye pumpkin pie.

All this has brought to the surface the longstanding affection for Thanksgiving among American Jews.

“American Jews love Thanksgiving and celebrate it every year with the rest of America,” says Gitell.

Whereas some Jewish families might not take part in Halloween or Christmas, Gitell says she doesn’t know any Jewish family that wouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. “I think that Thanksgiving is generally considered kosher by all Jews,” she says.

This is partly because Thanksgiving is generally seen as a secular, national holiday in which people honour family and community, regardless of ethnic group or religious denomination.

It is also popularly associated with pilgrims giving thanks for their new life in America, where they could practise their religion freely.

In that respect, some see similarities with the story of Hanukkah, which celebrates the miraculous lighting of the menorah in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple after the victory of the Maccabees against the Syrians in the 2nd Century BC.

Though several rabbis have expressed reservations about Thanksgiving, and one even stated his opposition to eating kosher turkey, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the Washington office of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement, says there is “nothing adverse to anything Jewish or contradictory to Judaism” in Thanksgiving.

“For that celebration to happen – as we are in our religious calendar celebrating our own religious freedom, as it was achieved in ancient times – makes it only that more emphatic,” he says.

Greeting cards are among this year’s Thanksgivukkah products
US history has also been deployed to firm up the links, right back to the use of rabbinic texts used by Puritans to thank God for their safe arrival in America.

After George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide Thanksgiving celebration in 1789, the preacher at New York’s oldest congregation, Shearith Israel, gave a Thanksgiving sermon and instructed his congregation to observe the holiday.

The service was unprecedented in the history of Jewish liturgy and prayer, says Allan Nadler, a professor of Jewish studies at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

“The creation of a Hebrew religious service to commemorate a non-Jewish holiday, a holiday whose origins have nothing to do with the Jews – that’s quite remarkable.”

Their immediate adoption of Thanksgiving is also an example of how “Jews in general embraced everything American with real fervour”, says Nadler.

“The way in which the Jews immigrated to America in the 19th Century – especially the mass wave of Russian Jews at the end of the 19th Century – the speed with they acculturated themselves and rose up economically and intellectually in universities I don’t think has any parallel.”

Historically, Hanukkah was a relatively minor Jewish festival, but it has gained in significance. Gifts are now often exchanged, especially in North America.

“In America it really became important because of the timing – it fitted into the ‘festival season’,” says Nadler. “For Jews anxious to have cultural bonds and interfaith bonds with their Christian neighbours, Hanukkah was perfect.”

Currently on sabbatical in his native Canada, Nadler says he was taken aback after he arrived in the US as a graduate student and was invited by an orthodox rabbi to a Thanksgiving dinner.

He is “feeling a little forlorn” about missing the holiday this year – but he winces at the commercialisation of Hanukkah. And that goes for Thanksgivukkah, too.

Thanksgiving Recipes

November 20, 2010 by · Comments Off on Thanksgiving Recipes 

Thanksgiving Recipes, (CP) – Tanya Zumach isn’t afraid of fire. She got engaged at Burning Man, an annual desert gathering in Nevada that culminates in a huge ceremonial fire, and her frequent parties sometimes include fire spinning, a sort of dancing performance art with flaming objects.

But simple candles, placed too close to the curtains, turned on her one night. The curtains caught fire during a huge Thanksgiving party she and husband Matthew McCune were giving in their Portland, Ore., home. Luckily, guests managed to quickly douse the flames.

A party disaster can happen just that quickly — something breaks, falls, catches on fire. Or it can happen more slowly, like not allowing enough time to thaw the turkey.

Either way, the party doesn’t have to be ruined. This holiday season, hosts should remember two essentials for handling the inevitable glitch: alternate plans and a good attitude.

As Beth Wareham, editor of the latest “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, 2006), quotes that book’s co-author, Irma Rombauer, as saying:

“A host is like a general: It takes a mishap to reveal his genius.”

Or take it from Zumach, who has fond memories of her Thanksgiving emergency. “After that, the party had a whole different energy,” she said. “It was, ‘We just saved the house. Let’s party!'”

When party disaster threatens, first, have a plan. And a backup plan.

“Murphy’s Law does exist,” said Greg Jenkins, an event planner for Bravo Productions in Long Beach, Calif. “To minimize damage control, the party-giver should think of every possible scenario. That might include having the emergency number of a plumber and electrician handy, as opposed to thumbing through the yellow pages making a plethora of calls.”

Even with a Plan B, hosts should expect something to go wrong and not let it upset them, says Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas, which teaches etiquette in San Antonio.

“It would be a miracle to host a party and have the entire event go off smoothly without even a minor accident. If someone spills wine on your favourite chair, take care of it immediately and assure your guest that it is no big deal. Even if it is a huge deal,” she said. “You don’t want your guest to feel bad or put other guests in an uncomfortable situation while you sulk.”

Have realistic expectations about your culinary abilities in particular, said Ted Allen, host of “Chopped” on the Food Network.

“The holidays are the one time a year when people who don’t cook any other time of the year suddenly cook for 27 people,” he said. If that sounds familiar, cook as many dishes ahead of time as possible and consider going potluck, which not only takes the pressure off but gives guests a chance to share traditions and recipes.

Allen once baked cinnamon rolls for a restaurant-critic colleague but neglected to use a drip pan to catch the bubbling icing and sugar. Just as the smoke detector went off from the mess in the oven, the doorbell rang.

Another time, he instinctively reached for a pan handle without thinking where it was — in a hot oven where salmon filets were cooking. He sat at the dinner table for the rest of the night with his hand in a glass of cold water.

Allen didn’t consider either event a failure.

“There aren’t many better ways to show your love for friends than to cook for them,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, you need to have the ability to laugh it off and order a pizza.”

If something goes wrong, your guests might not even know, said Sara Gaum, owner of the event-planning website

“Your guests do not know all of the details of your event like you do, and they won’t know if the cake flavour is wrong or if dinner was served five minutes late,” Gaum said. “Guests will look to you to see how they should react. Shrug off the bad stuff and enjoy yourself.”

Lori Shaffer and her husband, Michael, had just moved into a new home in Hainesport, N.J., when they invited their neighbours to a holiday party. One, Karyn Lockshine, accidentally knocked over a dark green candle, sending wax flying onto the walls, the carpet, the tablecloth and the white dining room chairs. Together, she and Shaffer tried to clean up, but the wax had stained everything.

A few days later, Lockshine arrived at Shaffer’s door with a basket of cleaning products, and the pair ironed wax out of the carpet and repainted the walls.

One chair, Shaffer said, “was ruined, but still to this day I have not recovered it. The green stains just remind me of how I met my best friend.”

As for Zumach, she continues to host Thanksgiving dinners and has no delusions they will be perfect.

“It just becomes a story to tell,” Zumach said.



Protocol School of Texas:

Ted Allen:

Vendor Bar:

Bravo Productions:

U.S. Department of Agriculture turkey tips: