November 20, 2013

Thanksgivukkah brings an abundance of food memories to the table

The once-in-a-lifetime overlapping of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving doubles the celebrating.

By Susan Axelrod
Online Content Producer

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A Thanksgivukkah spread prepared at Aurora Provisions in Portland brings food traditions from Hanukkah to Thanksgiving, which converge this year and won’t again for another 79,043 years.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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“They remember the flavors – the kugel tastes like this – if you start putting in candied ginger or something, they don’t like it,” Oster said.

The same goes for Thanksgiving, although Kuzma’s Venetian onions – cippolini with raisins, pine nuts and capers – would make a tasty change from the traditional creamed onions for Jewish families adhering to kosher dietary laws, which prohibit serving dairy dishes with meat.


Not all Jews are thrilled about the concept of Thanksgivukkah.

Joe Appel, communications director for Rosemont Market (who also writes the Press Herald’s weekly wine column), celebrates Hanukkah with his wife and two children, ages 12 and 8, lighting a new menorah candle for each of the eight nights.

“The basic summary of all Jewish holidays is: They tried to kill us, they couldn’t, let’s eat,” he said. “For me, Hanukkah falls into the same category as Christmas and Diwali; it’s a solstice holiday, bringing light in the midst of darkness. That’s different from Thanksgiving, which is a harvest celebration, a recognition of two cultures coming together. Both of these themes are worthy of celebration and to mash them up you lose some of the significance.”

Appel says he often feels a little bit of sadness at Thanksgiving, because “it’s rare that people give thanks.

“It’s already in danger of being a gorge fest. If you say, ‘Hey, throw it all into the mix,’ you lose any opportunity to pause and in the end, the food is eating you, you’re not eating the food.”

The big, messy mix is part of what it’s all about for Deborah Gitell.

Yet along with the fun stuff – the menurkey (a menorah shaped like a turkey) and crazy food combinations – she maintains that Thanksgivukkah has a deeper message not out of sync with Appel’s concerns.

“We all kind of take for granted it’s been kind of watered down to this huge dinner where we eat so much and watch football,” she said. “With Hanukkah landing on Thanksgiving, it really gives us a little more of a pause to think. A lot of Hanukkah is about being grateful. Being grateful for the oil, being grateful that this small band of fighters could defeat the Syrian Greeks who were trying to destroy the temple … that’s my Thanksgivukkah.”

Gitell also says the once-in-a-lifetime event offers a chance to enrich the American melting pot, and not just at the table.

“On the Facebook page, people are constantly sharing the content and really enjoying talking about Thanksgivukkah, mostly the food but also a level of the Jewish/American experience and how it translates to all the other people who come to this country, whether it’s for religious freedom or cultural expression … with all the problems we have, we are still so fortunate to be living in this country.”

A country where food memories are honored and “light, liberty and latkes” can be celebrated in equal measure with turkey and stuffing.

For more on Thanksgivukkah, visit

Susan Axelrod can be contacted at 791-6310 or at:


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