Light the Menurkey! Thanksgivukkah is rare holiday mash-up

Asher Weintraub, 9, with his invention, the Menurkey, a ceramic turkey menorah. For each of the eight nights of Hannukah, another candle is added to a feather.
Asher Weintraub, 9, with his invention, the Menurkey, a ceramic turkey menorah. For each of the eight nights of Hannukah, another candle is added to a feather.

BY HEATHER DUBIN  |  Put on your Pilgrim hat and light your menorah. For the first time in 125 years, Thanksgiving and Hannukah, otherwise known as “Thanksgivukkah,” will fall on the same day.

Since this is not slated to occur again until 76,695, or perhaps 2,070, according to other calculations, it might be a good idea to get your party on.

Two Downtown locations are hosting events for families and the community on the Lower East Side this Sun., Nov. 24.

The Museum at Eldridge Street will hold a Thanksgivukkah Extravaganzikah, at which children ages 4 to 10 can make Hannukah gelt in the form of turkeys and menorahs, bake turkey-shaped challah breads and participate in the “Great Dreidel Scavenger Hunt.”

In a phone interview, Education Director Judy Greenspan spoke about the activities that will take place at the museum, on Eldridge St. near Canal and Division Sts., which is also home to the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue.

“I love the name, ‘Thanksgivukkah,’ ” she said. “The whole concept of it is so quirky, and everyone is so amused by it. It’s fun to combine both traditions and doesn’t take much explanation.”

Greenspan noticed last summer that the two holidays converge this year, and decided to run her Thanksgiving and Hannukah programs together. She did some research online and discovered Thanksgivukkah. “Now it turns out, everybody is doing something,” Greenspan said.

In addition to guessing how many dreidels are in a bowl to win a Thanksgiving prize, and taking part in the “Great Dreidel Scavenger Hunt” around the synagogue that leads to a turkey stuffed animal, kids can also create their very own “Menurkey,” which is modeled after 9-year-old Asher Weintraub’s invention, a ceramic turkey menorah.

“We’re not going to plagiarize, ours is just paper and toilet paper rolls — his sold in the Jewish Museum,” she said.

In traditional Thanksgiving style, kids can write what they are grateful for on a poster of a turkey with feathers.

“It’s the once-in-a-lifetime holiday we’ll never reliveakkah,” she said with a laugh.

Over at the Educational Alliance Preschool, on Henry St. by Jefferson and Clinton Sts., “Light Up the Neighborhood: A Thanksganuukah Party,” will take place in collaboration with The Manny Cantor Center, for children ages 10 and under.

Dr. Michelle Sarna, director of the Educational Alliance Preschool, said that a grant from U.J.A.-Federation of New York to build family programming in the Lower East Side helped fund this free “spreading of light”-themed celebration.

“Our vision is to incorporate values that are inspired by Jewish and seasonal holidays, and integrate arts and families to engage with a social-action component project,” she said.

Youngsters will make a menorah together, listen to live music and produce a play based on the story of Hannukah, with elements of Thanksgiving sprinkled in.

The menu will feature bagels and cream cheese, yogurt cups, jelly donuts and lots of dried cranberries and fruit.

The menorah will be passed along and shared with other Educational Alliance programs — including ones for seniors, the mentally ill and drug rehabilitation centers — to take turns lighting the candles for the eight nights of Hannukah.

“This menorah will be a symbol of building community, both by how it’s created and built, and how it’s used afterward,” Sarna said.

Gratitude, which is an aspect of Thanksgiving, has been a focus at the preschool lately, as well as Hannukah’s ideals of bravery and courage. Sarna has worked to connect her students with the values both holidays share, and has helped them to organize a canned food drive.

Joanna Samuels, executive director of the Manny Cantor Center, also spoke about the intersection of the two holidays.

“Both Thanksgiving and Hannukah are kind of based on myths,” she said.

Samuels referred to the way the Native Americans welcomed the colonial settlers, and the feast that ensued.

“Of course we know the relationship was much more fraught and complex than that — and somehow, it’s an aspiration,” she noted. “Wow, what would it mean if people from different backgrounds found each other in times of vulnerability and shared?”

And then there is the miracle of Hannukah — though some might call it a myth — specifically, of the lamp oil that lasted for eight days, even though the Maccabees only had enough for one day.

“Again, who knows?” Samuels said. “For some reason both of these stories have captivated us as modern-day people.”

While she admitted neither of these historical narratives may stand up to fact-checking, Samuels feels there is significance to the Thanksgiving “myth” of gratitude and American pride, and the amazing Hannukah story of the miracle of light.

These stories’ staying power poses a challenge for people to reach out to others in need and share what they have, and to inspire the possibility of working toward “miracles,” despite limited options.

“It’s a reminder of a call to action,” Samuels said. “What could we do if people collectively came together, what sort of things could we do in the world?”

For more information, as well as to make reservations visit  www.eldridgestreet.org/visit/family or www.edalliance.org/preschool.

Meanwhile, on the Lower East Side, traditional Jewish eating establishments are not going over the top for Thanksgivukkuh. Katz’s Delicatessen, which got its start in 1888 — coincidently, the last time Thanksgiving and Hannukah overlapped — is keeping it simple.

Jake Dell, a fifth-generation owner of Katz’s, located at Houston and Ludlow Sts., was opposed to wild combinations.

“There will be turkey dinner and pastrami,” he said. “And we’re throwing some latkes into the mix.”

Expected Thanksgiving items such as mashed potatoes and apple pie will be alongside tsimmes (sweet carrot stew) and latkes (potato pancakes) for the two and a half hour all-you-can-eat and drink (beer only) dinner.

“It’s not that different for us, except for the latkes,” Dell added.

After a good turnout last year for their first Thanksgiving dinner, Katz’s decided to do it again with the Hannukah bonus.

“It’s good for people who might not have anywhere to go or are displaced,” Dell said.

Tickets are available for 100 people on the deli’s Web site, and the rest of the place will remain open.

“Hannukah and Thanksgiving are both separately our two busiest nights of the year,” he added. “Last year, we handmade 800 to 1,000 latkes for Hannukah’s first two nights.”

A few blocks west on Houston St., at Russ & Daughters, which opened in 1914, Niki Russ Federman, a fourth-generation co-owner, described their Thanksgivukkah workload.

“We’ll be making close to 6,000 latkes in the span of a very few days, and applesauce from scratch, too,” she said.

She was concerned over how many latkes might need to be shipped nationwide.

“Thanksgiving and Hannukah — this has never happened before,” Federman said. “It’s hard to even project what it’s going to be like.”

A Menurkey sits in the store window. It turns out young Asher Weintraub, the iconic menorah’s creator, is a customer.

“We catered his bris,” Federman noted.

A new restaurant, Taquitoria, on Ludlow St. near Stanton St., is shaking up its menu the day before Thanksgiving, the first night of Hannukah.

Co-owners Barry Firsch and Brad Hotzman plan to feature special taquitos — rolled, fried tacos — for Thanksgivukkah.

One taquito option is a deep-fried turkey and Brussels sprouts topped with gravy and cranberry sauce. The other is a latke-stuffed taquito topped with sour cream, apple sauce and chopped chives. They will be offered until they run out.