Last year, just around this time, I started laughing to myself as I drove to my job as a marketing specialist for Assisted Living at NewBridge on the Charles, part of Hebrew SeniorLife’s continuing care retirement community just outside of Boston in Dedham, MA. Halloween had recently passed, and as my thoughts turned to Thanksgiving, I remembered a calendar quirk I had first noticed on the back page of a Jewish calendar 2013 distributed by Combined Jewish Philanthropies. In 2013, the first day of Hanukkah would fall on Thanksgiving Day!
How would American Jews celebrate such a mixed up holiday? What foods would we serve? What traditions could we blend? And most all, what would we CALL it? That’s when the giggling began behind the wheel. I tossed around various syllable combinations in my mind until I had it: Thanksgivukkah!
This was going to be big, I thought. And tasty! Definitely funny, and maybe even meaningful. So like any modern marketer, I immediately created a Facebook page, twitter account and blog to herald this still-a-year-off yet once-in-a-lifetime holiday convergence.
In addition to conjuring images of amusing cultural juxtapositions – such as dueling dreidel and tom-turkey balloons in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which, as I turns out, is actually happening) – my mind also began to race with thoughts of what this special moment in Jewish American history might mean. More than just an opportunity to serve cranberry sauce on sweet-potato latkes, I saw an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish American experience while giving thanks to America for making that experience possible.
Since then, excitement about this once-in-an-eon holiday has taken off throughout Hebrew SeniorLife’s senior living communities. Our culinary teams have each planned unique holiday menus for our residents that fuse traditional Jewish cuisine with Thanksgiving staples. Our religious chaplaincy team is exploring ways to build upon this cross-cultural moment to unite our diverse workforce over the holidays. And our multi-generational programming department is bursting with ideas for activities incorporating crafts, history and storytelling.
I’m so proud to work for an organization that is not only animated by Jewish values but working tirelessly to transform the experience of aging for all seniors in America. My passion for Hebrew SeniorLife flows from the same place in my heart that brightened at the thought of a Thanksgiving/Hanukkah convergence. A combination of Jewish pride and patriotic gratitude best expressed in these two words: Happy Thanksgivukkah!
Photo credit: Kim DeMarco