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

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

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.

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:

Sweet Potato Latkes with Marshmallow Topping 


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Eighth Day

by David P. Rosenberg, Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History


Above image: Hanukkah services for soldiers, circa 1917. National Jewish Welfare Board Records. c/o American Jewish Historical Society.


Prakim, a 1953 monthly program manual for synagogue activity, was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Before Hanukkah questions, it has a passage on “The observance and Meaning of Hanukah,” stating:

Not in twenty centuries has Hanukah been so important a festival as it has become in our own days. No less than Jews in the past, we today read in the little lights the story of eternal Israel. We understand a little better, perhaps, what it means to enjoy liberty and to have heroes and heroines.
We also realize what it means to have Hellenists. Today we call them assimilationists—Jews who do not care whether the holidays and customs are observed, whether the Hebrew language, the Bible and Jewish history are studies, whether Palestine is rebuilt, whether every Jewish community is well organized, whether, in fact, the Jewish people and the Jewish religion survive or not. Hanukah, each year, reminds us of the fight between the Hasidim and Hellenists of old and inspires us to wage a peaceful battle against assimilation.

It continues with a “Hanukah Quizz”: Why did our great-grandfathers consider the miracle of the oil as the chief reason for celebrating Hanukah? Why do we consider the struggle for independence the chief reason? What problem faced the Jews in Maccabean times which face us American Jews today?”

It gives the responses:  “In past generations, there seemed little practical possibility to rebuild Palestine. Therefore, the miracle of the jar of oil, symbolizing the miracle of Jewish survival, seemed uppermost. Today as in Maccabean times, we are faced with the problem of the survival of the Jewish people and its religion and culture.”

Out of the Archives
An item from the ASF archives, Hanukkah: the feast of lights contains history, poetry, plays, riddles, synagogue music with excerpts from the Apocrypha, the Talmud, and the Prayerbook.
Sound Recording
The ASF Besso collection also has a digitized recording of songs most likely sung in Ladino: “Sephardic ballads and popular songs.”
One loose sheet of unknown provenance filed with the other program manuals in the National Jewish Welfare Board collection suggests carving a Dreidel in four quarters of a branch or broomstick, then binding it together and pouring melded lead into the file and cleaning up the rough edges with a file. A more recent publication from the collections, The Hanukkah Book by Marilyn Burns, has plans for creating a stuffed dreidel that “won’t spin very well, but it’s nice and squeezey.”
Sephardic holiday cooking:recipes and traditions has two particularly interesting recipes. The first is for “Yebra” Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves. It suggests seasoning the stuffing – ground chuck with rice is suggested – with simply salt, cinnamon and allspice. Mogados De Susam (sesame candy) which are “far superior to the store -bought varieties” can be made with sesame seeds, flour, blanched almonds, honey, sugar, water and lemon juice.
Victory Mail

Like many of the newspapers preserved here at the Center for Jewish history, mail was microfilmed during WWII. It was called V-mail, short for Victory mail.  Reproducing the full-size mail after it was shipped saved a significant amount of cargo space and fuel. It also deterred covert communications as invisible ink or micro-printing would not be reproduced. This 1944 V-mail form has space for the censor’s stamp as well as the attractive design.