Monday, November 4, 2013

At the Thanksgivukkah Table: Stories, Rituals and Conversations

Following the ideas in my Thanksgivukkah Manifesto, here are some suggestions for conversations, rituals and activities for Thanksgivukkah night. I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas – you can reach me at mishzion @ gmail com, or just leave a comment on this post.

Spark Conversations:
It isn't Passover, I have few illusions of getting into anything to elaborate. But a few pointed questions can get a good conversation going, even with the football in the background…
  • The juxtaposition of Christmas and Hanukkah is so strong in our minds and has served as a crucial part of American Jewish identity building. What “happens” when Hanukkah is juxtaposed with Thanksgiving? What similarities and tensions does this raise? What does it mean for Judaism in America?
  • Thanksgiving is an opportunity to take stock of the “American Project”. How are we doing? Where does your own story fit into this idea? What are the ways we dedicate energy and resources to bettering this country and furthering this project? And what is the role of criticism and counterculture in this project?
  •           The fantastic folks at Ask Big Questions put together a conversation guide for asking "What are you Thankful for" Use it with your family at Thanksgiving. Get a group of friends together around the fireplace during the long weekend. Or invite your neighbors from down the hall or around the block for a living room conversation.
  • If Thanksgiving was a Jewish holiday, how would it look different? What laws, rituals or prayers would it have?
  • Many of us struggle with Thanksgiving’s founding myths – the relationship to the Indians, the unclear religious roots. The same if often true of Jewish founding myths. What lessons can we learn from these various struggles?

Tell Stories:
Families tell stories in many ways, not just the overt “once upon a time”. Thankgivukkah is a powerful opportunity to unearth some of those family stories. Some stories to look out for:
  •           Have someone share a story of a first Thanksgiving in America – from an immigrant or an older participant; or try and research your family’s earliest Thanksgivings…
  •           Of the various ethnicities or families around the table, what has been the path to Americanness of each family, and what “additional” identities continue to play out in America?
  •           Participate in StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening ( 
  •           Hanukkah is the holiday of Jewish heroes – from the Maccabees to Bella Abzug, a great Jewish American heroine. What “heroes” do you recall on Thanksgivukkah?

Invent Rituals:

What else? Let us know and we'll feature it here!


  1. One suggestion -- how about some tips on what to wear or gift someone to celebrate this commemorative occasion? Don't mind if I do -- here's a little something for the person preparing the pumpkin challah. Protect your festive fashion and Gobble Tov!

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