In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
by David P. Rosenberg, M.P.A., Reference Services Research Coordinator, Center for Jewish History

Jews have had a long history of supporting the civil rights movement. From heavily Jewish leadership during the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, to Jews participating in the March on Washington in 1963, to efforts of Jews today, there has been strong support for the movement among the American Jewish community.

Instead of trying to highlight all of the archival holdings related to civil rights in the U.S., I’m going to focus on three documents I found in the American Jewish Congress archival collection (call number I-77) that is held by AJHS here at the Center. The collection itself is large at 750 linear feet. There is a finding aid for the collection here.

The first historical document is pictured above. It is a report published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with the American Jewish Congress: Civil Rights in the United States 1952, A balance sheet for group relations. The publication is significant because it was issued in a collaborative effort – even the advertisements for other publications are the same size – and because both groups thought it was important to document and report the current situation formally. This work is in Box 594, Folder: “Civil Rights in the United States” 1952.

In 1989 a librarian for the Commission on Law and social action conducted an audit of civil rights enforcement agencies. There is an entire folder in Box 222 (“CLSA Administrative: Audit of Civil Rights enforcement agencies correspondence, 1989”) devoted to the related correspondence. In her letters, Rhonda Rigrodsky asks various government officials if there has been a report on the effectiveness of states civil rights enforcement agencies, and if she can have a copy. The seemingly simple act resonated with me. The lack of reports and the responses – many scribbled on the original letter and returned – were even more poignant.

A memo from 2005 recounts 14 specific actions the American Jewish Congress performed to support the civil rights movement. The original document is preserved in Box 222 folder “CLSA Administrative: American Jewish Congress Civil Rights Record, 2005.” The actions ranged from legal and legislative to support for research on the effects of racial segregation. It is also mentioned that Will Maslow helped plan the March on Washington in 1963, where American Jewish Congress President Joachim Prinz spoke, and that Dr. King spoke at the national convention of the American Jewish Congress multiple times.

If you are interested in learning more, read these previous blog posts:

Reflecting on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—50 years ago today

Mining the Archives: Jews and the Civil Rights Movement

Above images: Civil Rights in the United States 1952 A balance sheet for group relations. From AmericanJewish Congress archival collection (Call number I-77, Box 594, Folder “Civil Rights in the United States” 1952). American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center.

Celebrating Thanksgivukkah (includes “Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping” recipe!)

by Elli Smerling, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History 

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Official Jewish law requires 10 to be in attendance for communal prayer. Unofficial Jewish law requires that if 10 people are in a room, there must be food.

Every Jewish gathering, celebration or holiday revolves around food. You may ask: What about fast days? Well, they’re about food as well. Fact: Not eating food is just as much about food as eating it.

Americans like to eat too… I’m not talking about our bad reputations for unhealthy excess and obesity. Americans use food to celebrate. Though most of our holidays revolve around a grill (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day), one holiday really does come close to a Jewish celebration: Thanksgiving.

But this isn’t such a surprise. Some believe that the Pilgrims based the holiday on Sukkot. Known as the Feast of Tabernacles, this holiday predominantly occurs in the fall, for the Jews of the Northern Hemisphere. Like Thanksgiving, Sukkot is a time for giving thanks for a bountiful harvest. The holiday commemorates the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the dessert and the fall harvest. It heavily revolves around meals, which are eaten in sukkot (temporary structures) to commemorate the structures used for shelter in the desert. These meals traditionally incorporate fall harvest vegetables, creating dishes appropriate for a Thanksgiving feast. It would be convenient for these holidays to fall together.

Instead, this year America’s signature Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, falls upon the most epic of American feasts, Thanksgiving. Hanukkah’s historic connection to Sukkot makes the holiday compatible with Thanksgiving. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple as a result of the Maccabean revolt. It is observed for eight days to celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting in the temple. The first celebration of this miracle, found in the Second Book of the Maccabees, describes this festivity coinciding with the observance of Sukkot. In essence, then, it is fitting for Hanukkah to fall on Thanksgiving, a holiday that resembles Sukkot.

Thanksgivukkah, as it is has become known, is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. And what better way to celebrate “the American Feast” with Hanukkah than with food! As stated earlier, many dishes served on Sukkot resemble those of Thanksgiving, so they will fit quite well on the Thanksgiving table—including “Moroccan Pumpkin Soup with Chick-Peas” from Joan Nathan’s book Jewish Cooking in America (Nathan 128-129). Unlike Sukkot foods, Hanukkah treats place emphasis on oil. Fried delicacies such as potato latkes and jelly doughnuts are staples on this holiday.

Without doubt, families will be bringing traditional Hanukkah and Jewish dishes to the Thanksgiving table. They may even take it a step further by creating fusion recipes. Manischewtiz Company has created a whole website dedicated to the holiday with videos, e-cards, and recipes for the occasion. They are even holding a contest for best “Mashed Up Recipe.”

I decided to take on the challenge myself. I went through numerous resources in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room here at the Center for Jewish History to gain inspiration.

I found some interesting and helpful sources:

  • Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother by Andrea Marks Carneiro and Roz Marks

  • Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan

  • The Chanikah Family Almanac: an anthology of tales, traditions and recipes for the Jewish home, produced by the General Israel Orphans Home for Girls

  • B. Manischewitz Company records 1947-1992

Page 86 of Jewish Cooking Boot Camp is dedicated to suggestions of toppings that could be put on potato latkes. Many of these toppings would be fitting for the Thanksgiving feast. In the picture below I have pointed out some of the suggestions that can be used to make your latkes more “harvesty.” Additionally, page 85 of the cookbook offered some quirky tips on latke making; they are also included below.

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In Jewish Cooking In America, I discovered a recipe for “Curried Sweet Potato Latkes” on page 261. The recipe is a perfect use of traditional harvest vegetables eaten on Thanksgiving and fused with a Hanukkah favorite.

I was inspired by the topping options, and knew if I really wanted to go crazy, I would have to simplify my sweet potato latkes. I found some simpler recipes online and picked an awesome Thanksgiving topping, which lead me to this creation:

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Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping 

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, halved
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 large russet potato, peeled
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
3 large eggs
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bag of marshmallow – large or mini

These can be baked or fried. If baking grease the baking sheet with butter or parve substitute to make them extra crispy. If frying use peanut or vegetable oil.

Directions:

Grate onions and potatoes; drain and place into a large mixing bowl.
Add green onions, panko, eggs, salt and pepper into the mix.
Mix well and form into palm-sized round balls. Place on baking sheet and flatten.

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Baking:

Place in oven on 425 for 20 minutes each side. During the last 5 minutes of baking – turn to broil and place marshmallows on top of the latkes.

Frying:

Heat a large pan and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Carefully drop sweet latkes into the pan to fry, turning when crisp. Put on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Place onto cookie sheet and add marshmallow on top. Broil for 5 minutes or until marshmallows have melted.

Enjoy hot, with cranberry sauce, apple sauce, or maple syrup.

Some Other Thanksgivukkah Ideas:

A Jelly Turkey:
Deep fried Turkey stuffed with cranberry jelly filling. Make sure to use enough oil to last 8 days.  

Pumpkin Sufganiyot:
Pumpkin flavored doughnuts stuffed with jelly filling. 

Cranberry Apple Sauce:
What better way to top your latkes on Thanksgiving Day?

Pumpkin Hanukkah Cookies:
Pumpkin cookies can be made into Hanukkah cookies by using Hanukkah cookie cutters.

Manischewitz Cocktails (found in the Manischewitz Company Records here at the Center for Jewish History):
Try the Manischewitz Hi-Boy: Two to three jiggers of Manischewitz Concord Grape in a tall cup of ice with ginger ale and a slice of lemon.

Or try the Manischewitz Stinger:
Three parts Manischewitz Blackberry one part brandy.

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Just How Special Is Thanksgivukkah?

by Aliza Schulman, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This year, the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving, creating what has become known as Thanksgivukkah. The Internet it abuzz with shirts, hats and recipes celebrating this rare event. But just how rare is it? When was the last time it occurred, and when will it happen again? This post breaks down the complicated calendar issues that resulted in this exceptional holiday, Thanksgivukkah.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28, the fourth Thursday of November and the first day of Hanukkah. Since the Jewish holiday starts at night, the first night of Hanukkah is after sunset on November 27th. This means that Jews all over America will be lighting their second Hanukkah candle at sunset on the 28th, Thanksgiving night; the very same night they will be having a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Due to the complicated history of Thanksgiving, there are different opinions about whether Thanksgivukkah has happened before in American history. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last day of November. (Before this, each state determined when Thanksgiving would be celebrated.) Using this barometer, the last time Thanksgiving fell on the first day of Hanukkah—meaning Jews lit two candles at their turkey dinner—was 1888. But in 1942, Roosevelt decided that Thanksgiving should be the fourth, not last, Thursday of every November. So, if we are going to calculate by the current standard of Thanksgiving, then the last time Thanksgiving occurred on any day of Hanukkah was….well, never.

Now, to address the question of if and when this wonderful holiday will ever occur again. Stephen P. Morse and Jonathan Mizrahi have both calculated this rare occurrence, resulting in a slight discrepancy. Stephen Morse calculates that according to the post-1942 change of Thanksgiving, 2013 is the one and only time Thanksgiving will ever fall on the first day of Hanukkah. And by one and only time, I mean that the next time this could possibly happen is in the year 79,043.

(Additionally, the next time Thanksgiving falls on any day of Hanukkah will be 2070 and 2165. Both of these Thanksgiving dates coinciding with the first night of Hanukkah, meaning the first Hanukkah candle will be lit at Thanksgiving dinner.)

 Jonathan Mizrahi has a slightly different calculation, citing that the “Hanukkah will again fall on Thursday, 11/28…in the year 79,811.” Whether Mizrahi means the first day (lighting one candle) or second day (lighting two candles) of Hanukkah falling on November 28 remains unanswered from his blog. Either way, both dates of 79,043 (Morse’s date) and 79,811 (Mizrahi’s date) fall far in the future.

Lastly, we turn to the question of why. Why are the overlap dates of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving so few and far between? For this answer, we look at the two different types of calendars that determine these holidays. Hanukkah is determined by the Hebrew calendar, which works off the lunar cycle. Thanksgiving is decided by the Gregorian calendar, which is based off the sun. These two calendars are slowly drifting apart, at a rate of 4 days every 1,000 years. So in about 80,000 years, the calendars will be in sync again, resulting in another Thanksgivakkuh. (One major caveat that exists to this theory is that the Hebrew calendar requires that Passover be in the Spring, which means that it will have to be adjusted.)

So, whichever calculation you choose to subscribe to, it is abundantly clear that Thanskgivukkah 2013 is a rare and special day. However you choose to celebrate—with latkes with cranberry sauce or with fall-themed Hanukkah candles—enjoy and take lots of pictures to capture this historical moment in our lifetimes!

 References: Click here to visit Stephen P. Morse’s website, and here to visit Jonathan Mizrahi’s.

Learning from Children’s Literature

by Sarah Ganton, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

The ways in which we preserve history for future generations are particularly relevant during holiday seasons, when we remember traditions and objects that mark special days. We might save our grandmother’s menorah, or pass down the secret family recipe for hamentashen. The yearly Sukkah is, of course, too big to save for future generations, but, nonetheless, we remember many happy times during Sukkot.

While looking through archival items housed at the Center for Jewish History that pertain to Sukkot, I stumbled upon three children’s books. All are sweetly illustrated and fun to read, but they represent something much deeper than nostalgia for childhood. These books, with their Sukkah-building bears and prayer-chanting children, are essentially teaching aids, helping to introduce young children to their Jewish heritage and the traditions of Jewish culture. 

One of the books, The Sukkah and the Big Wind by Lily Edelman, was published in 1956 by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education and features a discussion of decorating the Sukkah, children singing a Hebrew song of welcome to their friends, and a nightly Hebrew bedtime prayer.

Similarly, Leo and Blossom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben, depicts two baby bears building their own Sukkah next to that of their parents, and shows the family equating the harvest feast of Sukkot to American Thanksgiving.

Succos Time with Fishele and Fraydele, self-published by author Faige Shain, is part of a series of books that show an observant family as they celebrate Sukkot, buying the appropriate decorations and attending services together. Succos Time in particular includes many Hebrew Sukkot-related words that a Jewish child might need to know, such as s’chach, the material used to make the roof of a Sukkah, and arba minim, the Four Species of plant that are waved in a traditional Sukkot ceremony.

To search the Center partners’ collections for these books and others like them, click here. To view other Sukkot-related materials, click here.

Books referenced:

The Sukkah and the Big Wind, by Lily Edelman. United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1956. YIVO Archives 000131676

Leo and Blosssom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben. H. Holt, 1990. AJHS Archives BM695.S8 Z3 1990

Succos Time with Fishele and FraydeleI, by Faige Shain. Self-published, 1974. AJHS Archives PZ7.S4 S8

Sukkot in the NJWB Recordsby Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History
This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.
Above image: Decorating the Sukkah at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado. Text on back of photograph: (l-r): Lt. Robert Goldberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Airman Maynard Schlager, Boston, Mass.; Chaplain Albert J. Leeman, Brooklyn, N.Y. October 1952. NJWBR. American Jewish Historical Society Collections.

As I discussed in my previous posts on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish holidays, along with their respective rituals and practices, are rooted in history and serve to facilitate individual connection to the collective Jewish past.
Sukkot, or the “feast of tabernacles,” calls for the building of temporary dwellings called “sukkot” (booths) in order to remind us of the precarious housing of the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. While remembering the experience of the Israelites in Egypt is of primary importance, congregational leaders desire to connect Sukkot to current events in order to make the holiday more relevant and meaningful to their community. Many examples of this can be found in the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), located in the American Jewish Historical Society collection at the Center for Jewish History.

The first example comes from a synagogue bulletin in October 1939. Just as Hitler began to reveal his answer to the “Jewish question,” one New York synagogue explained that the Sukkah represented the constant struggle of the Jewish people for freedom and existence. It describes the Sukkah as a perennial token of the survival of the Jewish people and their triumph in the face of oppression. The bulletin calls for the community to support and cling to the frail Sukkah, for it serves as the rock of the salvation during this terrible time for the Jewish people. By explaining the Sukkah as a symbol of survival during the Holocaust, the author of this bulletin addresses the current concerns of his community and increases the meaning of the holiday of Sukkot. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 16. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example of connecting Sukkot to current events can be seen in a holiday bulletin from the Jewish Community Center in Detroit in October 1944, a point at which Hitler had already carried out much destruction. After associating Sukkot with the Jewish people’s quest for freedom, this bulletin explains that the Sukkah, as a temporary shelter, is a reminder that life is transitory. The Sukkah serves as a reminder that millions of Jews in Europe have had no peace, rest or permanent shelter since the beginning of the war. The Sukkah, as a vulnerable and temporary shelter, also represents exposure to the elements and the hope of an end to war. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 17. Click here for the finding aid.)
In attempt to keep Jewish holidays relevant to their community, leaders have often connected holiday rituals and symbols to current concerns of the Jewish people. These Sukkot bulletins during the Holocaust years are just two examples of many ways communities fused Jewish collective memory with contemporary Jewish struggles.

Sukkot in the NJWB Records
by Rachel Rudman, M.A., Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

This post is part of the Holiday History Series. To view all posts in the series, click here.

Above image: Decorating the Sukkah at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado. Text on back of photograph: (l-r): Lt. Robert Goldberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Airman Maynard Schlager, Boston, Mass.; Chaplain Albert J. Leeman, Brooklyn, N.Y. October 1952. NJWBR. American Jewish Historical Society Collections.

As I discussed in my previous posts on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jewish holidays, along with their respective rituals and practices, are rooted in history and serve to facilitate individual connection to the collective Jewish past.

Sukkot, or the “feast of tabernacles,” calls for the building of temporary dwellings called “sukkot” (booths) in order to remind us of the precarious housing of the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. While remembering the experience of the Israelites in Egypt is of primary importance, congregational leaders desire to connect Sukkot to current events in order to make the holiday more relevant and meaningful to their community. Many examples of this can be found in the records of the National Jewish Welfare Board (NJWB), located in the American Jewish Historical Society collection at the Center for Jewish History.

The first example comes from a synagogue bulletin in October 1939. Just as Hitler began to reveal his answer to the “Jewish question,” one New York synagogue explained that the Sukkah represented the constant struggle of the Jewish people for freedom and existence. It describes the Sukkah as a perennial token of the survival of the Jewish people and their triumph in the face of oppression. The bulletin calls for the community to support and cling to the frail Sukkah, for it serves as the rock of the salvation during this terrible time for the Jewish people. By explaining the Sukkah as a symbol of survival during the Holocaust, the author of this bulletin addresses the current concerns of his community and increases the meaning of the holiday of Sukkot. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 16. Click here for the finding aid.)

Another example of connecting Sukkot to current events can be seen in a holiday bulletin from the Jewish Community Center in Detroit in October 1944, a point at which Hitler had already carried out much destruction. After associating Sukkot with the Jewish people’s quest for freedom, this bulletin explains that the Sukkah, as a temporary shelter, is a reminder that life is transitory. The Sukkah serves as a reminder that millions of Jews in Europe have had no peace, rest or permanent shelter since the beginning of the war. The Sukkah, as a vulnerable and temporary shelter, also represents exposure to the elements and the hope of an end to war. (Call Number I-337, Subgroup 1, Series C, Subseries 4, Box 173, Folder 17. Click here for the finding aid.)

In attempt to keep Jewish holidays relevant to their community, leaders have often connected holiday rituals and symbols to current concerns of the Jewish people. These Sukkot bulletins during the Holocaust years are just two examples of many ways communities fused Jewish collective memory with contemporary Jewish struggles.