‘Thanksgivikkuh’ is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration

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WILDWOOD—For the first time since 1888, American Jews will be lighting menorahs the same night they carve Thanksgiving turkeys.

According to Rabbi Jeffrey Lipschultz of Wildwood’s Beth Judah Temple, the two holidays fit perfectly together.

“It actually matches very nicely,” Lipschultz said Thursday. “Hanukkah is a celebration of thanksgiving.”

Hanukkah is known as the Jewish Festival of Lights and lasts for eight days. The holiday commemorates the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians in the second century BC.

Hanukkah typically falls in December, but this year, the first full day of the Festival of Lights is the same day as Thanksgiving. The occasion is considered a once-in-a-lifetime event, as it will take some 79,000 years for this to happen again.

While Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November, Hanukkah’s dates are a bit more complicated to figure out. Lipshultz said that the dates of Hanukkah are based on the Jewish lunar calendar, which is about 12 days shorter than solar calendar. Because of that, the holidays fall earlier every year. But certain holidays, like Passover, need to be celebrated in specific seasons. So, every two and half years, like in 2013, the Jewish calendar has what Lipshultz called a “leap month” to keep the holidays from traveling too far out of sync with the solar year.

While it’s not that unusual for Hanukkah to fall at the end of the November, Thanksgiving is late in the month, Lipshultz said.

“It’s rare for Thanksgiving to be this late,” he said.

Because of the unique occasion, many Jewish families, including those in Cape May County, are excited about the “combined” holiday, which has been coined Thanksgivikkuh.

Macy’s plans to include a giant dreidel in its Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston said he would proclaim Nov. 28, 2013, “Thanksgivukkah” officially. A 9-year-old boy from New York City, Asher Weintraub, created the “Menurkey” a menorah that is shaped like a turkey, which has gone viral.

As for the local synagogue, Lipshultz said Beth Judah hosted an interfaith service with other county religious leaders on Friday night to discuss how the two holidays focus on religious freedoms and giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is also very similar to the Jewish harvest holiday Sukkot. Sukkot comes from an Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, mandate to celebrate the fruits of the harvest with God during the 15th day of the Jewish month Tishrei, which falls in September or October. Lipshultz said that when the pilgrims had the first Thanksgiving, they may have been influenced by that Jewish holiday.

Many of the families at Beth Judah are inter-faith, Lipshultz said, so it’s sometimes easier for them when Hanukkah and Christmas fall near one another. His family plans to light the menorah before Thanksgiving dinner, which will consist of some Jewish and Thanksgiving fusion foods. He said they planned to make sweet potato latkes, as well as a pumpkin stuffing for the turkey.

“It’s nice for them when Hanukkah and Christmas overlap,” he said. “But this is much more fitting. Thanksgiving is a universal holiday, it is something that Jews do celebrate and celebrate profoundly.”

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