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Fairfield County Rabbis Reflect On Hanukkah, Thanksgiving Similarities

For the first time in nearly 100 years, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year.
For the first time in nearly 100 years, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlap this year. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith, file photo

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. — Thanks to a rare overlapping on the calendar, many people of the Jewish faith in Fairfield County and across the country will be celebrating two holidays at once as the first full day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving.

Although the origins of these holidays are completely different, local rabbis say Hanukkah and Thanksgiving share some similarities.

“Hanukkah embraces gratitude and offers a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche: We rebelled against religious oppression in our own land, fought for our freedom, and thanked God for our miraculous victory,” Rabbi Shlame Landa of Chabad of Fairfield said in a statement.

“Thanksgiving, too, shares an ancient story: An arduous escape from religious persecution and the founding of freedom and democracy in a new land.”

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah — an eight day holiday that begins Wednesday at sundown —  commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, Jewish revolutionaries who reclaimed the Second Temple in Jerusalem from the Assyrians, who desecrated the temple and tried to force their religious beliefs on the Jews.

After reclaiming the temple, the Maccabees went to rekindle the eternal light but found what they thought was only enough oil to last one day. Instead, the oil burned for eight days.

Aside from both holidays having ties to escape from religious oppression, another similarity between Hanukkah and Thanksgiving is that both are times when people give thanks.

“During Hanukkah, there’s one prayer in which we give thanks for the blessing and miracles the Jewish people received,” said Rabbi Levi Stone of the Schneerson Center for Jewish Life in Westport. “I think the message of Thanksgiving is very much the same in that we want to give thanks to God the Almighty for all our blessings.”

According to Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of the Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston and Wilton , the last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped was in 1918. It won’t happen again until 2070.

Wiederhorn said the overlapping of these two holidays presents people with an opportunity to dig deeper in conversation at the dinner table.

“Because this unusual occurrence will not happen for another 57 years and many of us may not be here next time it happens, it’s an opportunity for us to encourage people to sit around the table and, in addition to saying what they are thankful for, offer a prayer for what they would like to see the world look like by the time this [overlapping] happens again in 2070,” Wiederhorn said.

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