This year for the first time since 1888 the uniquely American holiday, Thanksgiving, and the uniquely Jewish celebration, Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah) cross paths. Hanukkah is an 8 day celebration, and this year, 2013, it begins on Thanksgiving Day.
The primary purpose of Hanukkah is one of education. The younger generations of Jews are to be taught the lessons of their heritage by their elders. There are feasts and gatherings of families and friends. Synagogue congregations meet to sing and read and eat together. Just as there is nothing quite like Thanksgiving in the United States, neither is there anything quite like Hanukkah.
Normally Hanukkah comes in December, but because of the “jump” in dates of the Hebrew calendar this year, Hanukkah happens to begin this year on November 28. This occasion will not happen again for another 79,088 years. American Gentiles are calling Thursday “Thanksgivukkah” and American Jews are calling it “Hanukkiving.” The symbol of the celebration includes the placing of a Menorah in the windows of Jewish homes. The Menorah is a nine candle holder with a central candle and four candles on either side of the center. Each day, the center candle is lit and from it, one of the remaining candles is lit until by the end of the celebration, eight days later, all nine candles are burning. It is customary to place the lighted Menorah in a window so that it can be seen by the world.
In 1993, in Billings, Montana, the land of the “Big Sky,” a gang of skin heads, that were members of some kind of white supremacist group threw a brick through the window of a small Jewish boy’s bedroom. The boy had drawn a Menorah on a sheet of paper and had taped it to the inside of his window. This same group of skin heads also vandalized with graphite and destruction of property, the only synagogue in Billings. They also damaged a black church so badly that the congregation could not hold services the next Sunday.
After several attempts to get relief from local law enforcement and contact with the district’s Congressman, a Jewish woman in the community made her case to the local newspaper. The editor of the paper wrote a scathing editorial about religious tolerance and asked the people of Billings to place Menorahs in their windows. The next night, lights of 10,000 Menorahs gleamed from the windows of the good people of Billings, and the vandalism suddenly ceased completely.
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