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Thanksgivukkah: Rare Convergence of Two Holidays (Detroit Free Press – November 10, 2013)

Thanksgivukkah: Rare Convergence of Two Holidays (Detroit Free Press – November 10, 2013)

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah


By Susan Selasky
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

This year, Paula Lynn is putting her traditional Hanukkah vacation on hold.

Instead of going away, the West Bloomfield mother of two will celebrate the Jewish holiday at home — on Thanksgiving.

Like many American Jewish people, Lynn, 42, is looking forward to Nov. 28, when the two holidays coincide like this for the first time since 1888.

“Not only are my kids excited to be here during Hanukkah, but also because they are having latkes on Thanksgiving,” she says.

On Lynn’s Thanksgiving table, the traditional turkey and sweet potato casserole will share space with latkes, brisket and dreidel-shaped cookies.

Blending the holiday celebrations is “definitely an opportunity for more fun for all,” says Lynn, whose home is decorated with brown for Thanksgiving and blue for Hanukkah.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Farmington Hills, who is a part-time rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Sylvania, Ohio, and director of Kosher Michigan, says the holidays are a good fit with each other.

“You have the word ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’ and Hanukkah has become a holiday in which we give gifts,” says Miller, 37, who has a 9-year-old and 7-year-old twins.

This year, he says, he’ll “underscore the importance of what we have and reinforce to my kids that it’s more important to give than to get.”

“Another positive to this is removing the pairing of Hanukkah with Christmas, a holiday Jews don’t celebrate,” says Miller. “It makes the connection with Thanksgiving, a holiday they do celebrate.”

And, then, there is the convenience for those who must travel for both holidays.

“It’s always a fun thing to have everyone together,” says Rabbi Aaron Bergman of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, “but this is a 2-for-1 holiday.”

But not everyone plans to blend their holiday celebrations.

Sonny Cohn of Farmington Hills says her family will celebrate Thanksgiving at her daughter’s house on Thursday and Hanukkah at her house the following Saturday. The grandmother of 10 is just thrilled because she’ll get to celebrate Hanukkah with her son, Randy, and his family from Illinois, who come each year for Thanksgiving.

“It will be the first time we are all celebrating Hanukkah together,” says Cohn, 67. “We always exchange gifts, but this will be the first time we will exchange gifts in person.

“It’s another memory,” she says. “This is another time everyone will remember spending together — that’s what so special about it.”

Norma Dorman’s holiday table at her West Bloomfield home will be adorned with decorations her children have made for both holidays over the years.

“I’ve saved their stuff all these years as my mom did with me,” says Dorman, 51, who has four children ages 21, 19 and 16-year-old twins. “They are things we really love, and treasure them because they are old. ”

Her table will be adorned with handmade dreidels and menorahs as well as turkeys made with construction paper. Although the names on those projects aren’t legible, Dorman says, “we know who did them.”

“It’s those things that bring such conversation to the table,” says Dorman. “I literally have every menorah they’ve made.”

Having the family together for both holidays is a plus, she says.

“Depending on when Hanukkah falls, it’s difficult to get everyone together sometimes.”

And, coincidentally, the Dorman family tradition of deep-frying the Thanksgiving turkey also fits well with Hanukkah’s use of oil, which represents the oil left for the Jerusalem temple’s eternal light that was presumed to be enough for one day but instead lasted for eight.

That makes this year’s turkey fry all the more special, Dorman says.

Bergman says he thinks most Jewish people are “very entertained” about Hanukkah’s timing this year.

“It’s a nice convergence of Judaism and America, and both things are really important to us.”

Sweet Potato Latkes

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup vegetable oil for frying

Place sweet potatoes in a colander. Place a cheesecloth over the potatoes, and squeeze the potatoes to release as much liquid as possible. Let the potatoes sit to release more liquid, then squeeze again.

In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cloves and cinnamon; mix well.

In a large, heavy nonstick skillet, heat the oil.

Form mixture into pancake-size cakes, and fry in hot oil. Flip cakes after 2 to 3 minutes (when bottom is browned) and brown other side. Drain on paper towels, and serve piping hot.

From Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul, Southfield. Nutrition information not available.

Contact Susan Selasky: 313-222-6432 or