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Ask a Rabbi: What's the Deal with Thanksgivukkah?

Scott Lucas | November 28, 2013 | Lifestyle Story City Life

This year, for the first time ever, one of the nights of Hanukkah falls at the same time as Thanksgiving. (Remember, the Hebrew calendar shifts around compared to the Gregorian.) It's a once in a lifetime chance for American Jews to—well, do what exactly? Eat latkes instead of mashed potatoes? Salt a turkey instead of brisket?

To figure out exactly what the conjunction of celebrations means, we called the magazine's unofficial rabbi, Micah Hyman of Congregation Beth Sholom. The last time we spoke to him, he clued us in to the best cocktails to drink at Passover.

Today, he was wrestling with a problem worthy of Solomon—or John Madden. Hyman was trying—and failing—to make the world's largest kosher turducken to be donated to the poor. "The frying alone is an insurance nightmare," said Hyman. "I loved the concept, but it won't work in reality."

There's a bigger point besides setting the record, though: The congregation will be feeding two hundred meals at three shelters.  "A big principle of Hanukkah is to celebrate being wholly Jewish while also being totally acculturated with a larger society. That's why you put the menorah in the window—to let people know that we're here, we're Jewish, get used to it." Hyman is enthusiastically favorable about the conjoined holidays.

So what kind of food does Hyman think that Thanksgivukkah calls for? "Hanukkah's a festival of oil, right? The deep fryer is a miracle too. How about fried turkey legs, cranberry beignets, or sweat potato latkes?" he said. "Or you could fry some onions and rice for some Persian food. It's worth praying for the miracle of peace too." To drink, Hyman's a fan of glugg, a recipe for mulled wine from Sweden. The best news of all is that since Hanukkah is techincally a festival, not a Jewish holiday, there are no cooking prohibitions other than the normal Kosher rules. So—labor away.

The rampant cultural appropriation doesn't bother Hyman in the least. That's what Jews have always done, he says. "We appropriate the best and we repress the worst." After all, Thanksgiving celebrates the survival of Puritan culture, and Hanukkah celebrate a Jewish rebellion against foreign oppressors. In both cases, what gets celebrated is continuity. But that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun too. "You've got to have a little rebellion, a little snarkiness in Hanukkah," said Hyman. "If you don't have a little spice, it just turns into Chrismukkah."

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