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.

Thankful Quotes

November 24, 2010 by · Comments Off on Thankful Quotes 

Thankful Quotes, Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people you only see once a year. And then discover once a year is too often.

– Johnny Carson

Thanksgiving is so called because we are so thankful that only comes once a year.

– P.J. O’Rourke

I love Thanksgiving turkey … is the only time in Los Angeles who are natural breasts.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call Thanksgiving?

Erma Bombeck

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. Are consumed in twelve minutes. Half the time being twelve minutes. This is no coincidence.

Erma Bombeck

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Thanksgiving is sure is a holiday that everyone is waiting. This means that Christmas is near, Black Friday 2010 sales would happen the next day, no food in every house, gifts and more.

Much of the traditions of all, everyone gathers around. While some take as much of seriously Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving others find funny quotes and enter this in normal conversation with friends and family to break the ice and start out conversations.

Thanksgiving Quotes

November 24, 2010 by · Comments Off on Thanksgiving Quotes 

Thanksgiving Quotes, Understanding many Americans have of the early history of their country is stuck in the level of competition Thanksgiving and rhymes about the navigation of Columbus Blue Ocean. “The truth is more complicated and less uplifting. The Europeans who came to the Americas were not meek refugees were conquerors. Some came for freedom, many came for gold and the majority belonged to the land. They took what they wanted and justify their ruthless methods in the same way today’s jihadists to justify their own: God wanted it.

In recounting the fierce war that occurred in the years shortly after the legendary first Thanksgiving, Zinn cites the Puritan leader William Bradford description of an English attack on a Pequot village. Bradford recalled that the Indians who escaped from their homes on fire were slain with the sword, cut into pieces and pierced by swords. Few in the town escaped. At least 400 – and perhaps up to 600 – were killed.

Bradford wrote:

It was a terrible sight to see them frying in the Fyer, and streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke present and that, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and (the English) gave the prayers thereof to God, who had done so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands…

This was just one of many reciprocal atrocities that only ended when the Indians were driven off their land and almost exterminated.

Going back a century before Plymouth Rock Foundation seminal our history, Zinn cites the men who witnessed the slaughter that Columbus went after the New World opened in 1492. Back to Spain from his first voyage, Columbus made wild promises to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, telling them to bring shiploads of gold and hordes of slaves if they want to finance a second expedition. Had 17 ships and 1,200 men who proceeded to murder his way through the Caribbean islands.

They found very little gold and enslaved thousands of Indians died, but Columbus and his men kept trying. In the process, which killed entire populations of people who had innocently received Columbus with gifts and hospitality?

Zinn rightly asserts that the understanding of history has an impact on contemporary life and politics. If this were not so, there would be fights in the local school boards about the history textbooks and curriculum. Zinn purpose in writing his own version of American history was to fill the huge gaps left by women, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, poor workers and immigrants while white, male presidents, generals, adventurers and capitalists most of the credit for building the nation.

Zinn’s book has page after page of critical analysis ruthless jewel tones of the American experience with dark intentions. Zinn facts are solid and many of their performances are convincing. However, his revisionism is, in its way, an incomplete story that requires a broader context.

There is nothing unique about the cruelty that accompanied the arrival of Europeans on American shores. Human history in all times and all places is a record of invasion, plunder, slaughter and subjugation. The ancient Hebrews could have said that they were entering the Promised Land, but taking it for swords. The Romans built a great civilization legions marched behind. The Mongols carved an empire in the blood of their homeland in the eastern end of Asia to the borders of Europe. In the eighth century, Muslims from North Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered most of Portugal and Spain, only to be expelled from their last stronghold Iberian Columbus sailed the same year.

Not that the English invaders of North America is exempt from the ruling simply saying everyone does. But it is important to understand their sins were not unique. And, if we are to give full context, it is worth noting that the country the Puritans of New England Shakespeare left behind in 1620 had produced only a generation earlier. There are good and bad in every society and every human being. Unlike Columbus, the English settlers were not driven by gold and glory. Their motivations were more complex and brought with them an emerging vision of human rights that Americans would ask Zinn dispossessed again and again to push the limits of freedom in the coming centuries.

Now, the Puritan vision of personal autonomy did not extend far beyond their own narrow field of rigid religion and private property – and certainly not extended to Indians, according to William Bradford had a “natural right” but not a legal right to their land. However, since the small seed grew the American declaration that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Zinn notes that when Thomas Jefferson wrote these words, “all men” more or less mean white male Protestant landowners. But we can celebrate Thanksgiving Day is the path we have taken Plymouth and Monticello to a truly inclusive experience of freedom.

Like Jefferson, the slave owner who wrote so eloquently about freedom, we get caught by monsters of our past, however, like him, we send our dreams forward and, by laying claim to ancestral promises, making real.

Thanksgiving Wishes

November 25, 2009 by · Comments Off on Thanksgiving Wishes 

ThanksgivingTraditionally, Americans give thanks for the blessings our families, our people and our country have continued to enjoy during the past year, and years past—and so we should.

However, this Thanksgiving, as our nation faces many problems and we are on the verge of making pivotal decisions on, among others, war and peace, the economy and our common health care, I believe that is also appropriate and important that we give thanks—ahead of time, and each to our own God—for what we hope will be the wisdom and guidance our leaders will need to make the right decisions in matters that will so fundamentally affect present Americans and generations to come.

As always, our thanks to all those magnificent men and women in our military, especially to those who today find themselves in harm’s way. May God bless you and keep you safe.

Finally, I wish all the staff, contributors and readers at The Moderate Voice, and their loved ones, a blessed Thanksgiving.

Image: Courtesy