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Rare calendar event merges first day of Hanukkah with Thanksgiving Day.

By Paula Christine Schuler

This year’s Thanksgiving holiday is extra special for people of the Jewish faith. The first day of Hanukkah is Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28.

Rabbi Elisa Koppel of Temple Beth-El said, “Many in the Jewish community are really excited because they can celebrate with family because it happens during Thanksgiving.”

She said the paid time off work for Thanksgiving is a rare opportunity for families to gather who normally would not be able to celebrate the Jewish holiday together.

Hanukkah is about remembering Jewish identity. “It is a good story of a small people overcoming a big army,” Koppel said, adding it brings more consciousness to the celebration of Thanksgiving, being thankful.

“Greco-Syrians attacked to conquer Israel,” Koppel said, explaining the history of Hanukkah. “The Maccabees, a family of soldiers, fought back to keep the land and freedom of religion.”

While Hanukkah has fallen during Thanksgiving in the past, it is extraordinarily rare for the first day of the Jewish celebration to fall on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, it will be more than 1,000 years before the beginning of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving Day coincide again.

Mark Ingram, board member for Temple Beth-El, said the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, so dates change in relation to the secular calendar used in the United States.

Ingram said Hanukkah is celebrated at home mostly, much like Thanksgiving in mainstream America.

Both are days of commemoration and thanks for historical events. He said most in his congregation probably will just observe both together. Hanukkah is not a synagogue-based holiday like the Jewish High Holy Days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur or Passover.

“It gets a lot of attention because it is so close to Christmas,” he said.

This year’s calendar will not likely disturb usual traditions and travel plans for Jewish families. “It’s just a coincidence,” he said.

Temple Beth-El, 211 Belknap Place, is on the north side of this college and shares use of parking Lots 1 and 2 with the college.


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