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Article updated: 11/26/2013 8:47 PM

Rabbi finds thanksgiving in Hanukkah

With rare overlap of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, rabbi finds common theme

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By Chabad Jewish Center of Elgin
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For the first time since 1918, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving fall on the same day.
On Sunday, Dec. 1, the Chabad Jewish Center of Elgin, 30W509 Shoe Factory Road, will host a Hanukkah Celebration at 5 p.m. The party will begin with an outdoor lighting of a 9-foot Menorah. There will be latkes, doughnuts, live music, a soup bar and arts and crafts for children. Visit www.elginchabad.com.
Hanukkah embraces gratitude and offers a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche: we rebelled against religious oppression in our own land, fought for our freedom, and thanked Gd for our miraculous victory. Thanksgiving, too, shares an ancient story: an arduous escape from religious persecution and the founding of freedom and democracy in a new land.
Rabbi Mendel Shemtov of Chabad Jewish Center of Elgin says, "This year's calendar presents us with an opportunity to rediscover the true theme of both holidays; thanksgiving to the Almighty for all our daily miracles."
As President George Washington proclaimed in 1789 for the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty Gd."
The depth and meaning of many American holidays has been lost for many people, yet Thanksgiving stands out as a day that still shines with significance on the American calendar. While Hanukkah is often crowded out by shopping and sales season, this year it's not, giving us an opportunity to glean the lessons of both holidays anew.
Hanukkah and Thanksgiving share a long history:
Since its establishment as a U.S. national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving have overlapped three times: in 1888, 1899 and 1918.
After 1942 Thanksgiving was moved from the last Thursday of November to the fourth Thursday of November. This is the first time the holidays will overlap since then. The next time opportunity to celebrate both holidays together will be in 2070.
"Americans still very much identify with the struggle and establishment of a new country by the pilgrims. Most of us are descendants of the tired, poor and huddled masses, who yearned to breathe freely, coming to this great country with one goal in mind: a new future, unbridled by the oppressive restrictions of an Old World. And when we think of America, we still think of a Land of Promise and Liberty, for which we are grateful to the Almighty," said Rabbi Shemtov.

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