A once-in-a-lifetime meetup
by Jan Schlain
"Thanksgiving isn't all that old a holiday," says Beth Israel rabbi Robert Dobrusin. And because of Thanksgiving's comparative youth--Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863--there's no precedent for this year's calendric meeting: for the first time, the American harvest celebration falls during Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.
Because November starts on a Friday this year, the fourth Thursday doesn't come until the 28th. "And," Dobrusin adds, "we are just about at the earliest time when the Jewish holiday can come ... The first candle of Hanukkah will be lit on Wednesday evening. But because the day goes until sundown, during Thanksgiving dinner, so to speak, is really the first day of Hanukkah."
It's a perfect union. Thanksgiving's themes are "so familiar to us as Jews, as they are to everybody," Dobrusin says: "Gratitude, appreciation for the bounty of the land, the importance of family, the importance of home." And conveniently, "there are no restrictions on our activities on the holiday of Hanukkah, as there are on other Jewish holidays." So "don't let the Jewish calendar discourage you" from celebrating Thanksgiving, he told his congregation. "You can still light the Hanukkah menorah in a house with the smells of Thanksgiving."
[Originally published in November, 2013.]