The Bounty of the Sea

Photo by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Photo by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.

It is common to visualize the Thanksgiving feast as a beautifully set table with a large, golden-brown roasted turkey at the center, surrounded by fall vegetables and cornbread. Perhaps it would be more accurate, though, to feature a platter of fish. The Wampanoag tribe, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1621, depended on the Atlantic Ocean for much of their sustenance. The Native Americans foraged for mushrooms, berries, wild herbs and nuts to supplement their diet, and they shared this bounty with the Pilgrims.

One of the most plentiful species of fish found in the Atlantic Ocean was cod. The recipe below is inspired by ingredients that would have been easily available to the Native Americans and Pilgrims. [Read more…]

The Savory Pumpkin Pie

How can you make something for Thanksgiving dinner in a hurry? Many people dread having to cook all the traditional dishes. They lack the time and expertise to roast the perfect whole turkey. One dish that combines many of the traditional fall flavors associated with Thanksgiving is the savory chicken pumpkin pot pie.

This delicious pie can be prepared using convenience and canned goods from the supermarket. It is a very versatile recipe, and you may use any fresh or frozen vegetables at hand to enhance it. If you prefer, you may use a store-bought roasted turkey in the recipe instead of the chicken.

Photo by Alvin Smith https://www.flickr.com/photos/heather_joy/

Photo: Alvin Smith.

Chicken Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 roasted chicken, cut up
  • 1 can of plain pumpkin puree
  • 1 onion, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 cups fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tbsp. chicken broth
  • 2 frozen pie crusts or individual tart shells
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
  3. Brown the onion over medium heat.
  4. Add the minced garlic.
  5. Mix in the flour, and then add the broth.
  6. Stir until you have a smooth sauce.
  7. Place the chicken, pumpkin, parsley, and sage in a large bowl.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Stir the contents of the bowl into the sauce.
  10. Pour the pumpkin-chicken mixture into the pie crust or tart shells.
  11. Top the pie crust or tart with the second pie crust or flattened tart shell, pinching the edges shut.
  12. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.
  13. Bake for 45 minutes for a large pie, around 15 minutes for individual tarts.

A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Refugees

hiasAs we Americans head into our national holiday of giving thanks, I take note of the troubles of our brethren abroad. So many are without sufficient food, clean water, and a safe place to sleep. Many more fear for their lives as well as Europeans who are reeling from the massacre in Paris on Friday the 13th.

Fear brings its companion, hysteria. Hysteria breeds irrational behavior, and the rants of public officials on protecting our people, by limiting the freedom of those others they consider a high risk to public safety, are distressing. This country has been down this road before, especially during World War II, with the arrests and incarceration of citizens of enemy descent (see Jan J. Russell’s The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II).

In the Bible, there is the curious incident of the body found at the edge of the city limits (Deuteronomy, 21:1-8), upon which the elders of the city are to atone publicly with a sin offering. The sages say that this is to instill communal responsibility for the travesty that a stranger should die unwitnessed and unclaimed. I was troubled by this interpretation, feeling overwhelmed by the awesome task. With time and reflection, I now better understand that actions — both individual and institutional– impact the integration of people within society.

How many times have we read about the individual who was bullied and ignored, who later exploded in anger and vengeance? Would that we could turn back the clock, so that someone does reach out to this person. Could we better allocate our mental health resources to serve more people? What if gun sales were better controlled? Why not try to reach out to our new neighbor, so that we could see each other as human beings?

How hard do we try to protect people from persecution for their ethnicity? The French and the Belgians are now dealing with the legacy of decades of neglect and isolation of their Muslim aliens, who were never adopted into their national identity. I think the U.S. is a little better in integrating our immigrants, in part because of our pride in our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

Let us not turn our backs on the plight of the Syrian refugees, who are fleeing from the same kind of horror that Europeans are now experiencing through the evil actions of ISIL. They need a home where they will be welcomed, where their young will become integrated into our society, and where they will adopt American values. This is my prayer for them. Throughout our history, we have turned others of “dubious” backgrounds into loyal, law-abiding citizens and we should continue to do so with the Syrians. Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is a letter from a former Iraqi Kurd (obtained from HIAS-PA):

My name is Ali and I served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Iraq for three years. In 2013, I came to Tennessee as a refugee after two years of vetting by the U.S. State Department.

I knew I had to leave Iraq in 2009 when a friend of mine, another interpreter, took a vacation in Sinjar. While he was at home, his car was blown up, killing him and two of his family members. If I stayed long after the Army left Iraq, I would have been killed too. In 2011, I returned home and began the refugee application process.

Over two years, my brothers, my wife, and my children traveled several times to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad for screening. As a Kurd traveling to Baghdad, it was a dangerous for us. The airport, the hotel, and each of the checkpoints on the way to the embassy were all very dangerous. There were many interviews, tests, medical screenings, and background and security checks. They talked to family, friends, and people who employed us previously. And they did it repeatedly over two years. And then finally, on October 23rd 2013, we were approved.

Like my family, the refugees you see on the news are leaving because it is their only chance at a better life. They leave their homes, live in a tent or on the street … maybe they find a camp. Aid and international refugee programs are the difference between life and death.

As I watch the news from my home in Tennessee, I don’t understand politicians who are trying to stop people fleeing from war from coming to the United States.

I don’t understand why they’d try to prevent Kurds, especially, from coming to America. Over twelve years in Iraq, not one American soldier was killed by a Kurd. These are good people coming from over there. The little boy who washed up on the shore in Greece, his name was Aylan and he was a Kurd who fled the violence in Syria with his family.

The people fighting ISIS alongside Americans last week in Sinjar are Kurds. They are trying to escape ISIS and they need America’s help right now.

Thank you for reading my story.

HIAS-EcuadorResponse From an Anonymous Persian Jew:

Dear Hannah,

I beg to differ. This issue is not one that one can apply one size fits all. As tragic and heart-rendering as the plight of the refugees from Syria is, please bear in mind that we are dealing with a radically different culture and set of circumstances.

When we let in and took in thousands of Somali Moslems and housed them in Minnesota, we did not expect that their American-born children would become the backbone of the Islamic radicals in Somalia, the Shabaab. The Shabaab are no different than the Daesh (aka, ISIS) and their acts are barbaric.

Islamic culture has within it seeds of violence and intolerance that are deeply rooted in the Qoran and Hadith. I will not come to the defense of Europe, but to be fair, these folks did not come in to adopt European civilization. The Jews in Europe lived next to European civilization and, whereas they retained their distinct identity and religion, the Jews did not try to assimilate European society or convert Europeans.

We are comparing apples to oranges. The Christian and Yazidi communities are persecuted and should be embraced and welcomed by us. Alas, political correctness does not allow it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Holiday Season; Or Not?

TurkeyWhen is it okay to participate in holidays traditionally reserved for others?

Most of us have embraced Thanksgiving as the quintessential American holiday, and as such, we will be planning travel to visit other relatives, prepare a bountiful table and of course, watch the Macy’s parade in the morning and football thereafter.

However, we struggle with other American holidays. Many of us still wrestle with Halloween and most of us would not consider celebrating Christmas.

These three holidays are iconic parts of living in America. And all three share religious backstories. Christmas, as the celebration of the birth of Christ, is certainly the most obvious. Halloween is grounded in pagan rituals.

Thanksgiving is essentially a Christian Sukkot, rooted in a Christian religious tradition of gratitude for God’s bounty. What makes the secularization of this holiday such that we are able to embrace it and celebrate, stripping it of its original grounding and retelling the story in a way that it can become ours, and why are we unable to do likewise with the others?

Many of us kept our children from Trick-or-Treating, worried that dressing up in a costume and participating was an affirmation of a pagan ritual of witches and warlocks. However, Halloween has been stripped of its religious meaning.

I read recently how one rabbi used a creative Jewish lens through which the celebration included sharing excess candy collected by her children with the less fortunate. One of my fonder memories is taking my son by the hand, dressed in a costume that his mom created, while I was dressed up as a giant hamburger. The only bad part of Halloween was the stomach-ache and crash after my sugar high from over indulgence.

Christmas is a more complicated situation. But in this age of acculturation, interfaith couples and of course commercialization, there are places where we can enjoy the holiday. I say that very cautiously and carefully because I do not want to be disrespectful of those that hold this as a sacred holiday.

However, the Coca-Cola inspired Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer both pale in comparison when I faithfully listen as Bing Crosby sings White Christmas in the movie of the same name (Bing also sang it in Holiday Inn). Irving Berlin’s classic homage yearns for us to be able to embrace this American holiday as our own.

Coming from an interfaith background, I am familiar with the beauty of a family gathering, honoring my grandmother, and sharing gifts on a day devoted to love and togetherness. We as modern American Jews need to figure it out.  And in our own unique way, we have already begun.

We have substantially ramped up the Hanukkah holiday celebration. This is, however, a contrived response to a Christmas in which we long to participate. Without reservation, I fully support the increase in joy we bring to our “minor” religious holiday, including the latkes, Hanukkah cards, eight days of presents, parties, and so on.

We go a step further in our “Chinese food and a movie” ritual on December 25. The question is whether we maintain a fictional “Chinese wall” separating holidays, holding steadfast to our modern re-interpretation of Hanukkah, or can we consider an American Secular Christmas?

I submit that celebrating one holiday does not preclude the other, nor does such a celebration threaten our core beliefs. Instead, acknowledging Christmas in a modern American Jewish context can bring us in closer alignment with the Jewish dream of acceptance in America, and more importantly, serve as a significant learning opportunity to share with our children what these holidays might mean metaphorically and Jewishly.

Happy Holidays and Chag Sameach!

Thanksgiving Turkey With Ancient Israel’s Seven Species

Photo by Faith Goble https://www.flickr.com/photos/grafixer/

Photo by Faith Goble.

After enduring many hardships in the New World, the Pilgrims finally succeeded in having a plentiful harvest. They were very grateful to G-d for providing for them, and wanted to find an appropriate way to honor G-d. They turned to the Bible for inspiration and found what they were looking for in Exodus.

They discovered “the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end” (Exodus 34:22), one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals celebrated in ancient Israel during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. This feast signaled the end of the harvest, and the conclusion of the agricultural year of the Land of Israel. It is the harvest festival of Sukkot.

During Sukkot, it is customary to include the Seven Species of the Land of Israel in the sukkah, and to incorporate them into the menu. The seven most important plants that were grown in ancient Israel were wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, dates and olives (Deut 8:8). The Pilgrims consumed the foods from the New World such as turkey, corn, pumpkins, and cranberries.

For this Thanksgiving celebration, I have decided to return to the holiday’s roots. I will prepare the traditional New World bird with the Seven Species of the Land of Israel. It is a turkey brined in pomegranate juice, with wheat and barley couscous stuffing.

Photo by Jim Larrison https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/

Photo by Jim Larrison.

For the Pomegranate Brine

Adapted from POM Wonderful.

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage

For the Turkey

  • one 15-pound turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • salt
  • black pepper

For the Pomegranate Glaze

  • 3 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • black pepper
  1. Place the turkey in a large pot.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the brine, and pour over the turkey.
  3. Cover the pot tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
  5. Scatter the chopped onion, carrot, and celery in a large roasting pan.
  6. Remove the turkey from the brine, and place it over the cut up vegetables.
  7. Brush olive oil over the turkey.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Roast for approximately 4 hours.
  10. Boil 3 cups of pomegranate juice until reduced by half.
  11. Mix in the pomegranate arils and black pepper.
  12. Brush over the roasted turkey.
Photo by ukcider ukcider https://www.flickr.com/photos/ukcider/

Photo by ukcider.

For the Couscous Stuffing

  • 1 1/2 cups semolina couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups barley couscous
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped figs
  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates
  1. Pour the couscous into a large bowl.
  2. Add the salt, boiling water, orange blossom water, and cinnamon.
  3. Stir all the ingredients together, and then cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix in the olive oil, raisins, figs, and dates.
  5. Sautee the almonds in a little olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle the almonds over the couscous.

Zucchini Cake for Thanksgiving

— by Margo Sugarman

When you hear “zucchini” you are not likely to think about cakes, but zucchini’s winter spicy taste goes perfectly with a Thanksgiving meal, and most importantly for a post-Turkey dessert, zucchini cakes are parve.

Zucchini CakeA zucchini cake may not look gorgeous, but it is moist and tastes wonderful. Another advantage: It freezes well, so you can make it a few days before and save time on your Thursday cooking.

This recipe makes one large cake or two loaves that serve about 16. You can also halve it and bake it in a 24-centimeter round pan if you do not need to feed lots of guests, or even prepare them as muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF
  2. Grease two 8×4-inch loaf pans or one 11-inch spring-form pan, or line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  3. In a mixer, beat the eggs and add the oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.
  4. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips or dried fruit, if using, and stir into the egg mixture.
  5. Divide the batter into prepared loaf pans or muffin cups, or pour into the baking pan.
  6. Bake loaves for between 45 and 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake much more quickly: between 15 and 20 minutes.

Margo Sugarman is the creator of The Kosher Blogger.

Thanksgiving, Arlo Guthrie, & My Yarmulke

A Ritual of Joyful Resistance

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Just five minutes before noon today, I took part in a wonderful ritual. One of the members of a men’s group that began 30 years ago – Jeffrey Dekro, founder of the Isaiah Fund [see below for an explanation] —  called me and its other members to remind us to turn on our radios. He has been doing this, year after year on Thanksgiving Day, for almost all those thirty years.

Why?

Every year at noon on Thanksgiving, WXPN Radio in Philadelphia plays Arlo Guthrie’s  “Alice’s Restaurant,”  about a Thanksgiving dinner in Stockbridge Mass. in 1967; about obtuse cops; and about nonviolent resistance to a brutal war.

More after the jump.
And every year, this seemingly non-Jewish set of rituals stirs in me the memory of a moment long ago when my first puzzled, uncertain explorations of the “Jewish thing” took on new power for me.  And when I came to understand the power of a yarmulke.

In 1970, I was asked by the Chicago Eight to testify in their defense. They were leaders of the movement to oppose the Vietnam War, and they had been charged by  the Nixon Administration and Attorney-General John Mitchell (who turned out to be a  criminal himself – see under “Watergate”) with conspiracy to organize riot and destruction during the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968 .

I had been an alternate delegate from the District of Columbia to the Convention – elected originally as part of an anti-war, anti-racist slate to support Robert Kennedy. After he was murdered, we decided to nominate and  support as our “favorite son” the chairperson of our delegation –  Rev. Channing Phillips (may the memory of this just and decent leader be a blessing), a Black minister in the Martin Luther King mold.  

Our delegation made him the first Black person ever nominated for President at a major-party convention.  The following spring, on the first anniversary of Dr. King’s murder, on the third night of Passover in 1969, his church hosted the first-ever Freedom Seder.

AND – besides being aan elected delegate, I had also spoken the first two nights of the Convention to the anti-war demonstrators at Grant Park, at their invitation, while the crowd was being menaced by Chicago police and the National Guard. The police – not the demonstrators – finally did explode in vicious violence on the third night of the Convention.

Although the main official investigation of Chicago described it as a “police riot,” the Nixon Administration decided to indict the anti-war leaders. So during the Conspiracy Trial in 1970,  Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Abby Hoffman, and the other defendants figured I would be reasonably respectable (as a former  delegate) and therefore relatively convincing to the jury and the national public, in testifying that  the anti-war folks were not trying to organize violence but instead were the victims of police violence.

 As the trial went forward, it became clear that the judge – Julius Hoffman, a Jew  – was utterly subservient to the prosecution and wildly hostile to the defense.  (Some of us thought he had become possessed by the dybbuk of Torquemada, head of the Inquisition.  – How else could a Jew behave that way?  We tried to exorcise his dybbuk. It didn’t work.)

Judge Hoffman browbeat witnesses, ultimately literally gagging and binding Bobby Seale, the only Black defendant, for challenging his rulings – etc.  Dozens of his rulings against the Eight were later cited by the Court of Appeals as major legal errors, requiring reversal of all the convictions the prosecution had achieved in his court.

So when I arrived at the Federal court-house in Chicago, I was very nervous.  About the judge, much more than the prosecution or my own testimony.

The witness who was scheduled to testify right before me was Arlo Guthrie. He had sung “Alice’s Restaurant” to/ with the demonstrators at Grant Park,  and the defense wanted to show the jury that there was no incitement to violence in it.

So William Kunstler, z’l,  the lawyer for the defense, asked  Guthrie to sing “Alice’s Restaurant” so that the jury could get a direct sense of the event.

But Judge Hoffman stopped him: “You can’t sing in my courtroom!!”

“But,” said Kunstler, “it’s evidence of the intent of the organizers and the crowd!”

For minutes they snarled at each other. Finally, Judge Hoffman: “He can SAY what he told them, but NO SINGING.”

And then – Guthrie couldn’t do it. The song, which lasts 25 minutes, he knew by utter heart, having sung it probably more than a thousand times – but to say it without singing, he couldn’t. His memory was keyed to the melody. And maybe  Judge  Hoffman’s rage helped dis-assemble him.

So he came back to the witness room, crushed.

And I’m up next. I start trembling, trying to figure out how I can avoid falling apart.


It took me another year or so to start wearing some sort of hat all the time — a Tevye cap or a beret or a rainbow kippah or an amazing tall Tibetan hat with earflaps and wool trimming.

I decide that if I wear a yarmulke, that will  strengthen me to connect with a power Higher/Other than the United States and Judge Hoffman. (Up to that moment, I had never worn a yarmulke in a non-officially “religious” situation. I had written the Freedom Seder in 1969, but in 1970 I was still wrestling with the question of what this weird and powerful “Jewish thing” meant in my life.)

So I tell Kunstler I want to wear a yarmulke, and he says – “No problem.”  Somewhere I find a simple black unobtrusive skull-cap, and when I go to be sworn in, I put it on.

For the oath (which I did as an affirmation, as indicated by much of Jewish tradition), no problem.

Then Kunstler asks me the first question for the defense, and the Judge interrupts. “Take off your hat, sir,” he says.

Kunstler erupts. – “This man is an Orthodox Jew, and you want – etc etc  etc.” I am moaning to myself, “Please, Bill, one thing I know I’m not is an Orthodox Jew.”  But how can I undermine the defense attorney?  So I keep my mouth shut.

Judge Hoffman also erupts: “That hat shows disrespect for the United States and this Honorable Court!” he shouts.

“Yeah,” I think to myself, “that’s sort-of true. Disrespect for him, absolutely. For the United States, not disrespect exactly, but much more respect for Something Else. That’s the point!”

They keep yelling, and I start watching the prosecutor – and I realize that he is watching the jury.   There is one Jewish juror.  What is this juror thinking?

Finally, the prosecutor addresses the judge: “Your Honor, the United States certainly understands and agrees with your concern, but we also feel that in the interests of justice, it might be best simply for the trial to go forward.”

And the judge took orders!!  He shut up, and the rest of my testimony was quiet and orderly.

Next Thanksgivukkah in 80K Years? Wrong!

The upcoming convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving is not quite as rare as some have claimed.

Some of our older readers have already celebrated Hanukkah on Thanksgiving, and our younger readers may do so again, despite widespread Internet hoaxes claiming this has never happened before, or that it will not do so for 79,811 years:

Thursday,
November 29,
1888
 2nd Night 
Thursday,
November 30,
1899
 5th Night 
Thursday,
November 28,
1918
 1st Night 
Thursday,
November 29,
1945*
 1st Night 
Thursday,
November 29,
1956*
 2nd Night 
Thursday,
November 28,
2013
 2nd Night 
Thursday,
November 27,
2070
 1st Night 
Thursday,
November 28,
2165
 1st Night 


Fact-checking is very important.

So what has made this fallacy viral, and how does it happen that there were also times in years gone-by with convergences as well?

Some of the fallacy impact came from an article in the Boston Globe which reported a “calculation” that Thanksgivukkah “won’t repeat for another 79,043 years.” They also reported:

The magic struck last November, when Dana Gitell, a marketing specialist at NewBridge on the Charles, a Dedham retirement community, was driving to work.

She knew the holidays were going to overlap this year “because I had seen a list of holiday dates on the back of a Combined Jewish Philanthropies calendar,” recalled Gitell, the wife of Seth Gitell, a former Menino press secretary now working for House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

She was mentally running through a list of clunky names for the phenomenon — Hanukkahgiving? — when the more melodious Thanksgivukkah came to her.

Gitell, her sister-in-law, and a friend — an artist with New Yorker covers in her portfolio — promptly designed Thanksgivukkah illustrations and contacted ModernTribe.com, a hip Judaica site. Together, they created products including cards and a $36 T-shirt that reads “Thanksgivukkah 2013: 8 Days of Light Liberty & Latkes.”

An article in Haaretz noted that she did not have permission to use the image she chose and received a cease and desist order on October 5.

More after the jump.
Mathematicians disagree about recurrence dates on their websites, so it does take work to arrive at what seems to be a truly accurate answer. The most helpful site seems to be of the three Lansey brothers, whose blog with correct information was already online in 2012!

These three brothers did historical research on past dates of Thanksgiving, and posted the years listed in the table above when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapped. The years 1945 and 1956 are marked with an asterisk because those were only Thanksgiving in certain states that maintained the date for Thanksgiving adopted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (and mocked as Franksgiving). That date was nullified in 1941 by an act of congress settling it into the 4th Thursday.

The creator of the Intel 8086 chip, Steven P. Morse, pointed the convergence out on his website back in in 2012, although he did not adjust for the historical differences in the dates of Thanksgiving in years gone-by. He further explains the solar/lunar calendar drift issues involved:

Chanukah-before-Thanksgiving occurred in the past, and with decreasing frequency as time went on, is because there is a slow drift between the Hebrew Calendar and the secular (Gregorian) calendar. That drift amounts to one day every 217 years. So in about 80,000 years it will drift by one full year and we’ll be back to where we started.  At that time we will once again be lighting Chanukah candles at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Jonathan Mizrahi nicely illustrated this drift in the Hebrew calendar:

Understanding the Jewish calendar would require a further article because it is not a strictly lunar calendar. And — this may come as a surprise to some — the Jewish calendar begins with Passover, the original Jewish New Year according to the Torah which requires Passover to occur in the Spring. Originally ensuring the proper alignment of dates and seasons was accomplished through observation-based adjustments:

… when the fruit had not grown properly, when the winter rains had not stopped, when the roads for Passover pilgrims had not dried up, and when the young pigeons had not become fledged. The council on intercalculation considered the astronomical facts together with the religious requirements of Passover and the natural conditions of the country. — Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, p. 1-2.

But then, in the fourth century, according to Judaism 101:  

Hillel II established a fixed calendar based on mathematical and astronomical calculations. This calendar, still in use, standardized the length of months and the addition of months over the course of a 19 year cycle, so that the lunar calendar realigns with the solar years. Adar I is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle. The current cycle began in Jewish year 5758 (the year that began October 2, 1997).

If you are musically inclined, you may find it helpful to remember this pattern of leap years by reference to the major scale: for each whole step there are two regular years and a leap year; for each half-step there is one regular year and a leap year. This is easier to understand when you examine the keyboard illustration below and see how it relates to the leap years above.

It’s nice to note that some of the children alive today will be here for the next Thanksgiving-Hanukkah convergence. May it be so!

Addendum: There are some who wrote well-publicized articles that overlooked the evening overlap of these festivals. Jewish holidays start at sundown and secular holidays start at sunrise. They wrote their articles declaring a never-to-be-repeated event by disregarding the almost 8 hours of convergence the evening before. Which to my mind is odd for Jewish writers to do, given we know that the evening rituals and meals of both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are the spiritual main events. For Jews, given that sundown is approximately 4:19 pm, we will be lighting our menorahs and then eating our latke-stuffed turkey dinners (or whatever fusions evolve over time) there-after. Evening convergences have happened in the past, and will continue to do, as the table at the article’s beginning demonstrates.

Chag Sameach from Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Thanksgivukkah Pie: Don McLean, the Jewish Version

A hilarious and catchy musical tribute to Hanukkah and Thanksgiving by Benji Lovitt. (Follow Benji on Twitter and Facebook.)

Editing: Victor Paru.
Filming and Vocal Recording: Yosef Adest.

Happy holidays!

Lyrics follow the jump — sing along!
Lyrics (including bonus verse which didn’t make the final cut):

A long, long time ago,
I can still remember how that oil used to last a while.
And I knew if it made it eight.
Then Jews would get to celebrate
And then we’d be rejoicing with a smile.

But this year’s just unprecedented.
A holiday that’s so demented.
Chanukkah plus turkey.
It doesn’t get more quirky.

I can’t remember if I cried
From Jewish and American pride.
My apple pie is extra fried.
The day the chags collide.

CHORUS:
So try my new Thanksgivukkah pie.
It’s delicious, not nutritious, and it’s so good you’ll cry.
Like soofganyot, it is super deep-fried.
So don’t eat more than one or you’ll die, don’t eat more than one or you’ll die.

Would you like some pumpkin pie
Topped with chocolate gelt stacked really high
Cause your bubbe baked the dough
Or latkes topped with cranberry
And mashed potatoes with sour cream.
We remember stories from so long ago.

Now I know that you love Maccabees
But save some room for mac and cheese.
The football game’s tonight.
We can watch by candlelight, oooh.

So wontcha sit right back, kick off your shoes
Cause it’s happy times for US Jews.
So tell your friends and spread the news.
The day the chags collide.

CHORUS:
So try my new Thanksgivukkah pie.
It’s delicious, not nutritious, and it’s so good you’ll cry.
Like soofganyot, it is super deep-fried.
So don’t eat more than one or you’ll die, don’t eat more than one or you’ll die.

Now the Pilgrims stood up to the Greeks
And the Maccabees threw such a feast
Or maybe I mixed up my facts.

When we eat the dreidel, it gobbles loud
And we spin the turkey which wobbles proud.
I think I’ve lost my mind, got to relax.

Let’s appreciate this special day
With the Macy’s Hanukkah Parade.
The floats are on the go.
Nes gadol haya po….SHAAAAAM!

So gather round with all your friends.
Sing Maoz Tzur until the end.
And stuff yourself, I recommend.
The day the chags collide.