Rare ‘Thanksgivukkah’ alters synagogue’s plan


By Lark Lewis

Hanukkah begins at sundown Wednesday, making the first full day of Hanukkah fall on Thanksgiving, or “Thanksgivukkah.”

The last time this happened was in 1888, and the two holidays will not collide again for 79,000 years. Local congregations are making changes to accommodate the holidays.

“Hanukkah starts on the same day of the year every year,” said Jeff Hecht, faculty adviser for NIU Hillel, a Jewish student organization, and associate dean in the College of Education.

The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, unlike Thanksgiving, so the holidays usually don’t coincide.

“The Jewish calendar has leap months and can shift as much as 2.5 months in either direction,” Hecht said. “Because it is earlier this year, the intersection of the lunar calendar and solar calendar happened.”

Hecht said Hanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish faith. It’s not like a “Jewish Christmas,” he said, so there won’t be extra celebrations because of “Thanksgivukkah.”

“It’s just sort of funny, not a big deal,” said Beth Shalom Rabbi Maralee Gordon. “It’s nice that it coincides.”

Gordon said he agrees Hanukkah is not a major holiday, but celebrations this year might be bigger because they will have a dual purpose.

“People usually don’t get together from far and wide to celebrate Hanukkah,” Gordon said. “But for Thanksgiving, they will.”

Congregation Beth Shalom, 820 Russell Road, is participating in a food drive with the Salvation Army. This year, in addition to collecting more than 120 donations for food baskets, they moved up their annual Hanukkah party to accommodate their congregation.

“This year instead of having [the party] on Hanukkah, we moved it up to Nov. 24,” said Robert Feldacker, president of the Congregation of Beth Shalom of DeKalb. “We figured a lot of people in our congregation won’t necessarily be in the area.”

Hecht stories Hanukkah’s story is the main focus of the holiday.

“My 15-year-old daughter found a menorah app for her iPhone; when I was a kid we didn’t have that,” Hecht said. “Maybe that will be her tradition.”

Hecht said the important tradition is remembrance of the holiday.

“It’s nice that Hanukkah is really about gratitude and so is Thanksgiving,” Gordon said.