In Defense of Thanksgivukkah


By this point everyone knows that Thanksgivukkah is occurring this Thursday.  By some accounts, this is the greatest culinary event in history; by other accounts, it’s a horrible occurrence that needs to be ignored.  Almost every possible article has been written about it, even The 8 rules of Thanksgivingukkah Sex (just click on it now, we know you’re going to. We can wait ..questionable content for work).  While there are some valid reasons to want to separate the two holidays, many of the arguments, such as those presented by Allison Benedikt, are overblown.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. When dealing with any event that is several centuries or even millennia old, certain liberties are going to be taken with the story. Much like a plot twist in Homeland or 24, facts can get in the way of a good story.  Historical purists would probably take umbrage with the way both stories are told in elementary schools. However, the underlying principles of the holidays are both commendable. Personally, Thanksgiving is about gratitude and being thankful for what we have. Hanukkah is about overcoming adversity against challenging odds, it’s not about presents.

But Allison Benedikt’s complaints go far beyond historical critique, and her article needs a response because there are not enough face palms in the world to express my disdain for it. Why Slate chose to publish this is beyond me, because she is someone who appears to have a very limited understanding of Judaism as a whole and whose love of Judaism is itself questionable as shown in her own writings. Let’s proceed:

I don’t want my kids to think Thanksgiving is a “present holiday.”

This shows a complete lack of understanding about Hanukkah. If you think Hanukkah is a presents holiday, you are doing it wrong. This woman has completely secularized and commercialized Hanukah so, to her, it has little value beyond a night to give kids gifts and maybe eat fried foods. She has already lost the true meaning of Hanukkah, the continued struggle of the Jewish people against unmistakable odds and violent attacks that was overcome by our community’s famous strong will. It’s true that with the recent exception of Black Friday hysteria, Thanksgiving has largely escaped the commercialism that plagues so many other holidays.  She should try to keep Hanukkah free of commercialism as well.  Also, her failure to teach her kids about the story behind Hanukkah, rather than just presents, demonstrates her own misunderstanding of Hanukkah and deficiency as a parent.

Combining the Holiday foods is an awful idea.

First, if you don’t think sweet potato latkes sound amazing or think pastrami with Brussel Sprouts (since bacon is out of the question) is awesome, I can’t help you. More amazing Jewish fusion food for me! Due to Hanukkah’s connection with oil, basically anything imaginable on the Thanksgiving menu can now be justifiably deep fried like a state fair. Fried foods are better than their regular counterparts; this is an inarguable fact of life. Anyone who disagrees should probably just pack up and move to North Korea. . Our food is one of the things that bind us as not just a religion, but as a culture, and we should embrace the culinary hybrid of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Jews should not feel ashamed to be different.

I spoke with two individuals whose parents were intermarried and they mentioned they liked Thanksgiving because it didn’t highlight the differences in the two sides of their family.   Those of us from dual Jewish parent homes can still relate to the awkwardness of the holiday season. As Jews we often can feel like outsiders and Thanksgiving is a bonding time where regardless of our religious differences we are like everyone else in the Country. These differences are most obvious during the Christmas season.  There are holiday parties which are, to be honest, Christmas parties at work and with our friends. Our desire to socialize and celebrate with friends and coworkers can often be in conflict with our religious roots.  As the incomparable Kyle Broflovski says, “It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas”, but on Thanksgiving it doesn’t matter.

Hanukkah’s rise and specifically its association with gifts is at least partially related to our exclusion from Christmas activities. In the realm of religiously important holidays, it’s not particularly high.   We spend our holy days not eating, while others get a Federal holiday to celebrate their biggest religious occasion.   However in our desire to fit in, we shouldn’t ever be afraid to embrace who we are and the addition of latkes to the thanksgiving table shouldn’t alarm anyone. We can still appreciate Thanksgiving as a secular American holiday even if we happen to give it a Jewish twist this year.

This is the only chance in our lifetime where the first day of Hanukkah will occur on Thanksgiving. Something fun and unique is happening in the Jewish world, and we should embrace it.

Happy Thanksgivukkah,

Jon Halperin

The opinions reflected in this article are that of the author and do not represent the views of Gather the Jews or its staff.


Masa Israel Featured Internship: Special Education & Occupational – Physical Therapy Assistant

Special Education & Occupational – Physical Therapy assistant, Gan Eliya Israel Association for the Advancement of Blind and Visually Impaired Children

As an intern your responsibilities will be to assist the staff in caring for the blind and seeing-impaired babies and toddlers.

Gan Eliya is considered a world leader in specialist programs that meet the needs of blind and visually-impaired children. Treatment includes hydrotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding.

Have a cool idea? #MakeItHappen

makeHave an idea you want to put into action?  Here’s your chance!  Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington Partner with the Schusterman Philanthropic Network to provide micro-grants within Greater Washington Jewish Community.  Check out the press release below to find out how you can get funding for your cool Jewish idea.


Washington, DC – Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced that they will join as community partners in the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network’s (Schusterman) #MakeItHappen Micro-Grants Initiative – Schusterman’s global call-to-action for Jewish individuals to submit inspiring ideas for creating Jewish experiences in their communities. Schusterman will select up to 50 ideas from around the world for micro-grants of up to $1,000 each, with five ideas receiving up to $5,000. Submissions will be accepted through January 15, 2014. The initiative is designed to activate ideas from individuals, not solicit requests from organizations for operating or programmatic budgets.

As Greater Washington’s community partners, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington will grant up to twelve additional #MakeItHappen grants between $1,000 and $2,500 to individuals from the Greater Washington area. Preference will be given to ideas that have the potential to expand and have long-term sustainability and impact on the Greater Washington or global Jewish community.

“These micro-grants provide support for emerging leaders and serve as a catalyst for innovation within our local Jewish community,” said Simone Friedman Rones, President of Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies.

Steven A. Rakitt, CEO of The Federation, added, “This is an innovative approach to engaging individuals and opening the door for future involvement in our community. We are very excited and thankful to partner with  EJF Philanthropies and the Schusterman Philanthropic  Network on this great effort.”

This campaign is a means of promoting and supporting a new generation of Jewish leadership, especially those who may not have otherwise been involved with the local philanthropic community.  Selected projects will identify creative means of engaging, serving, and leading local Jewish communities – from hackathons to meetups, Shabbat dinners to service projects.

More on Schusterman’s process and guidelines:

  • Submit it!  For a limited time, individuals 18 years of age and older can upload their inspiring ideas for a project, event or program that will make a difference in their communities and engage their peers in a meaningful Jewish experience.  Terms and restrictions apply.
  • Share it!  Eligible ideas will be posted on the #MakeItHappen website where they can be shared with friends, fans and followers on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else people like to convene and converse.  Visitors to the site can search ideas by topic and location, “Like” their favorites and even contact the creators directly to assist them in making those ideas happen.
  • #MakeItHappen!  Schusterman will announce several recipients per week through January 15, 2014. Schusterman will also share additional opportunities for all people who submit ideas to help #MakeItHappen in their communities.

A few key details to keep in mind:

  • A central part of the experience must have a specific nexus with Jewish life, whether it is cultural, educational, spiritual or social.
  • Organizations cannot submit projects nor receive a micro-grant. They have to be submitted by an individual who is personally going to take the lead on making it happen.
  • Micro-grants are not intended to be small “operating grants” for existing projects.  They are intended to support “experience grants” that enable specific programs/events that would not have occurred otherwise.

More info:

For any questions on Greater Washington grants, contact Sarah Arenstein, Federation’s Young Leadership Director, at or 301.230.7277.

Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies:
Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies ( has  five grantmaking priorities: saving the cheetah from extinction, improving pediatric asthma care, stopping Alzheimer’s Disease, ensuring the continuity of the Jewish community in the Washington, D.C. region, and improving education outcomes for District of Columbia public school students. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington: 
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s  ( mission is to care for those in need, deepen engagement in Jewish life and strengthen connections among Jews locally, in Israel and in 60 countries around the world. Because of the caring and generosity of our individual donors and corporate sponsors, we are able to help Jews of all ages and walks of life and support interests from education and the arts to social services and cultural programs.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network:

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network (SPN) is a global enterprise that supports and creates innovative initiatives for the purpose of igniting the passion and unleashing the power in young people to create positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world. SPN includes the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Schusterman Foundation-Israel, ROI Community and REALITY.


Let’s Make a Thanksgivukkah Miracle – GTJ Dating Series with Erika E. (No. 79)

UntitledWhat happens when you mix turkey with latkes, bellies full of grandma’s kugel (or is that only a Thanksgiving tradition at my house?) with eight crazy nights, and the Pilgrims with the Maccabees?  Why, Thanksgivukkah, of course!  As I learned from the tiebreaker question at Sixth & I’s trivia night last week, this union of the two holidays, where the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving coincide, won’t happen again until the year 79811!!  (However, if you count an overlap as the first night of Hanukkah with Thanksgiving, then it will actually happen in the years 2070 and 2165.  I definitely hope I get to celebrate with both pumpkin pie and jelly-filled doughnuts when I’m 89 years old… assuming I still have some teeth left.)

In the spirit of both holidays, I’d like to share eight reasons we should be thankful this year, as it relates to dating:

1. Online dating exists.

Do you think the Pilgrims in 1621 had a way to meet people across the field, let alone across the world?  Their best place to flirt was likely over the ear of corn they were growing, not on their couch in their jammies using some new-fangled technology we like to call the Interwebs.

2. We have options.

We live in a time when, for most of us, the choice of the person we date and/or marry is ours and ours alone.  Of course, parents have some influence in this decision, as do friends, but you ultimately get to choose the person who makes you the happiest.  Arranged marriages were the norm worldwide until the 18th century.  I’m just glad we live in this day and age.

3. Interracial and interfaith couples are becoming more widely accepted.

A study published earlier this month by Kevin Lewis, a UC San Diego sociologist, suggests that racial barriers to romance are not as insurmountable as we might suppose.  He did his research by analyzing the patterns of 126,134 OKCupid users in a two-and-a-half month period.  He found that, while people often still mainly reach out to others of their own racial background, they are, however, more likely to return a cross-race email than previous research would have led to us to expect.  And, once they have replied to a suitor from a different race, people are then themselves more likely to cross racial lines and initiate interracial contact in the future.  Baby steps…

4. There is more gender equality, especially with online dating.

While I am still a proponent of chivalry when it comes to opening doors and paying on a first date, I also strongly encourage women to reach out first online with an email if someone strikes their fancy.  And, if someone is trying to have an e-lationship, then I also recommend that women suggest meeting in person.  This is the better option to dropping communication completely simply because no one knows the appropriate time to ask for that cocktail or coffee.

Now, we gaze at the Shamash!

5. Dating apps exist.

This is similar to #1 above, but this time, all you have to do is click, send a few texts, and then meet.  Easy as pumpkin pie!

6. There are events galore for meeting people.

Between the aforementioned trivia night, Shabbat services, community service events, and, of course, the infamous GTJ happy hours, there are so many places to meet people for networking, making friends, and dating.

7. DC is a young city.

In 2010, which was the most recent comprehensive age demographic data I could find for DC, the population of people aged 25-34 was 17.1%.  While this number may not sound high on its own, it’s the highest percentage of all age demographics.  For the entire US that year, people aged 25-34 represented 13.4% of the entire population.  Obviously not everyone in this group is single, but at least the odds of meeting someone in that age range are slightly higher… unless Hugh Hefner is your type.

8. DC is fun!

My next article will consist of fun and cheap winter date ideas.  Just for a tease, you could show off your triple Salchow at the new Shaw Ice Skating Rink, go to the Museum of American History and impress your date with your knowledge that it was the Battle of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key’s lyrics to our National Anthem, or indulge in a salted caramel hot chocolate at Co Co. Sala.  Calories don’t count if it’s below 40 degrees out.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and please remember the miracle that is Thanksgivukkah… one drumstick, doughnut, and date at a time.

erika ettin-49334smallErika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people stand out from the online dating crowd and have a rewarding experience. An archive of all of Erika’s columns is also available.  Want to connect with Erika?  Join her newsletter for updates and tips.




Top new Thanksgivukkah Videos!

Videos for the holiday that comes only once every 77,000 years! Also don’t forget GTJ’s Chanukah event guide!

Thanksgivukkah Song by ‘Dish Nation!’

Six13 – The Thanksgivukkah Anthem

The Maccabeats – Burn – Hanukkah

Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik & The Maccabeats Miracle Match
Donate and/or make sure you’re on the bone marrow registry

The Thanksgivukkah Song by Buzzfeed

Chanukah Honey (Santa Baby Parody)

Ari Lesser – Give Thanks – Hanukkah – Thanksgiving

Hanukkah 2013 Song Maoz Tzur by Technion Students- Israel

“Thanksgivukkah Pie”, Holiday Tribute by Benji Lovitt

“Oils” – A Thanksgivukkah Miracle (Royals song parody)

The Chanukah Song – Ella No Sigue Modas, Jewish Version (with English, Spanish, and Hebrew lyrics)

!נס גדול היה פה – “A Great Miracle Happened Here” a cappella medley by Hillel House

I Want A Hippopotamus For Hanukkah – Mr. Palindrome

The Dreidel Song: Hanukkah Rap

The Thanksgivukkah Movie Trailer

Thanksgivukkah – ” Scream and shout ” by Buba Myses

Thanksgivukkah: The Movie

Chanuka Rock! by KOPSHTICK

What does Andrew do for Hanukkah??

I Believe in Miracles by Julie Geller

The Anti-Thanksgivukah Song

The Thanksgiving Turkey Dreidel by Conan O’Brien

Thanksgiving Under Attack: Hanukkah (Stephen Colbert)

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Masa Israel Featured Internship: Social Work Internship, Mesila: Municipal Aid Center for Migrant Workers and Asylum Seekers

While interning at Mesila you will be responsible for conducting intakes and providing referrals for clients from the migrant worker and asylum seeker communities in south Tel Aviv. You will also be given the opportunity to volunteer at one of the unrecognized pre-schools run through social services within the local community.  You may also have the opportunity to provide direct assistance to families with children with special needs to help them receive social service benefits.  Interns at Mesila must be able to read, write and speak in both Hebrew and English – volunteering positions are also available for those with limited Hebrew ability.

Founded in 1998, Mesila is a non-profit organization dedicated to combating poverty by raising public awareness about the importance of financial stability and independence among the refugee and migrant worker communities in south Tel Aviv.

Vice President Biden Literally Breaks a Tie in Senate

bidenWASHINGTON, DC – (@The Comedy News) – Vice President Joe Biden came to the U.S. Senate floor today to exude his only real Constitutional duty– to break ties in the Senate. However, he chose to interpret his Constitutional duty as he had to literally take a necktie and break it into pieces.

When the Vice President arrived on the floor and silently grinned his trademark smile, he pulled out a brand new red and blue-striped necktie and proceeded to break it into pieces with his bare hands.

“Once that tie came out of his pocket, we knew exactly what ol’ Joe was gonna do”, a Senate Page reported. “We hear stories about how much of a goof he was when he was a Senator. And now, out of forty-seven Vice Presidents in U.S. history, Joe is the first that I know of to come to the floor and rip a tie to pieces—and then defend his behavior as his ‘Constitutional duty’.

Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution states that “the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided”. There is no mention of neckties.

Brian Fishbach is a writer and comedian.  You can read Brian’s weekly satire news articles at, and enjoy his late-night jokes at Join The Comedy News’ Facebook page for updates.

JSSA Legacy Brunch: An Organization Impacting the Community

Seated Dr and Mrs Clement Alpert seated_Second Row from left Vic Seested_Gail Maidenbaum_Larry Kline_All Legacy MembersThere is an organization that helps the elderly, the ill, the young, the hungry of all races, faiths and political affiliations in the Greater Washington area. No, I’m not referring to the government. For 120 years the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) has dutifully served its community. This year alone over 37,000 people have been assisted by the organization.

For generations the agency has had a meaningful impact on the lives of people the it touched. For Maryland native, Howard Rothman, JSSA entered his life in the early 90s when his mother became ill and needed hospice care. They came to the house twice a week to clean and do the shopping. JSSA recently reentered Rothman’s life as a form of relief for one his children when his daughter began to have separation anxiety during his divorce. During the alternating weeks of custody JSSA counselors were able to provide her with counselors that have helped her go from making ten or more calls in a weekend to her mother down to two.

As a nonprofit, the work the agency would not be possible without the support of the community. Over the past ten years, 482 individuals made annual gifts for a total impact of $13.2 million. Though no small figure the amount the work that remains to be done exceeds the donations received. To further JSSA in its mission many individuals have made the organization a beneficiary in their wills. To honor such people, JSSA hosted a Legacy Brunch. Though legacy giving is not a new concept it has yet to set roots in the Jewish philanthropic world despite being fairly simple to initiate. A legacy contribution can be made through various means such as designating an organization on an IRA form or creating a fund within another organization. Contrary to popular belief, legacy giving is not only for the super wealthy. Donations of any size from the meager to the sizeable are welcome to help further the work of the agency.

JSSA has made many friends over the years. One of their board members, Vic Seested, is evidence of that. Though he himself is not Jewish, his life has been touched by JSSA through the impact it made in his friends’ lives growing up in Maryland and he wanted to be a member of the organization which had enriched the lives of those who he loves. To assist JSSA in its mission to honor those who have designated the agency as a beneficiary of legacy contributions, Seested had his restaurant, Taste Gastropub in Olney, Maryland provide the three course meal for everyone who attended. The event also featured Matt Nosanchuk, the Associate Director of the Public Engagement and Liaison to the Jewish Community for the White House, as the keynote speaker.

For Nosanchuk, he views his role within the White House as the representative of the President to the Jewish people. At the brunch he espoused support for the work of JSSA over the past century. For him, it is important to bring new voices from across the spectrum of Jewish observance into the community and the inclusive nature of the agency facilitates that goal.

If you are interested in getting involved or finding out more about the agency they will be hosting a brunch on December 15 as a part of their Eggs and Ideas series to engage the community around areas of general interest, break bread with neighbors and provide information about social services available in your own backyard! The brunch will be hosted by Andy Pollin on December 16 at Clyde’s of Tyson’s Corner. Andy Pollin is a longtime D.C. sports-radio fixture who recently brought back his signature “Sports Reporters” franchise to weekday mornings on SportsTalk 570. You can find out more information about the event here.

Courtney D. Sharpe is a world traveler who has spent extensive time in the Middle East studying, traveling and working with the Peace Corps. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she pursued a double degree in International Studies and Religion. 

Jewish Girl of the Week – Jolie

JG3Want to recommend an outstanding leader to be featured on GTJ? Nominate him/her at

Rachel: What brought you to DC?
Jolie: No one asked me to be Jewish Girl of the Week when I lived in Alexandria…
No, but really, I moved to the area from Baltimore to start my career as a graphic designer, and the change of scenery was nice as well.

Rachel: What’s your favorite thing about DC?
Jolie: There’s always something to do. Sometimes too much! I enjoy anything involving live music and DC never lets me down. I find myself at 9:30 club frequently.

Rachel: We heard you play the bass guitar. Could you tell us more about that?
Jolie: I play the bass guitar, I’ve been in two bands in the past but am not in one at the moment. I’d love to start a new band. I think being in a bluegrass band would be really fun!

Rachel: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?
Jolie: My favorite way to spend Shabbat is at Sixth & I with my friends, singing songs and dodging flying challah.

JG2Rachel: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Jolie: I like all of the ones where I get to eat. And let’s not forget eating while reclining! Passover might take the cake…err…flourless cake.

Rachel: Who is the coolest Jew?
Jolie: Mike Gordon, the bassist for Phish.

Rachel: Finish the sentence: When the Jews gather…
Jolie: …someone’s getting set up.






Hanukkah 2013 Events!

hanukkahAre you looking for something Hanukkah-related to do before or after you celebrate Thanksgiving outside the District?  Or are you riding out Thankgivikkah here in DC?  Either way, we’ve gathered the DC Hanukkah events for you!  If you see an event missing, email Rachel at so we can make sure it makes it onto the list.

Many of these events require advance ticket purchase or RSVP.

Thursday, November 20th:

Sunday, November 24th:

Monday, November 25th:

Tuesday, November 26th:

Wednesday, November 27th:

Thursday, November 28th:
Sunday, December 1st

Monday, December 2nd:

Tuesday, December 3rd:

Wednesday, December 4th:

Thursday, December 5th:

Saturday, December 7th:

Sunday, December 8th:

Monday, December 9th: