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Jewish center ready for convergence of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 5:18 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Rabbi Mendy Schapiro (left) of the Chabad Jewish Center of Monroeville and Bob Korfin of the Parkway Jewish Center light the Menorah at the 2012 Hanukkah celebration.

Menurkey. Thanksgivukkah. Hanugiving.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlapping this year, members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and across the nation have created new words and ways to celebrate the holiday.

“I think it's really very powerful that we can feel so blessed to be Americans and so blessed to be Jews right at the moment (the two holidays) come together,” said Rabbi Barbara Symons of Temple David in Monroeville.

It is predicted that it will be more than 77,000 years before the first day of Hanukkah once again will converge with Thanksgiving.

While some cultures' holidays are scheduled with a solar calendar, Jewish holidays are determined by the lunar cycle, which is what makes the occurrence so rare, Parkway Jewish Center President Bob Korfin said.

Members of the Chabad Jewish Center in Monroeville will build a menorah out of canned goods this year — coined a CANorah — as part of at their annual Hanukkah celebration, Rabbi Mendy Schapiro said.

“We hope to make it 6 feet tall, but it really depends on the amount of cans that come in,” Schapiro said.

Rabbi David Katz, 60, interim spiritual leader of Temple Ohav Shalom in McCandless, said he finds thematic parallels in the two holidays.

“It was religious freedom the Maccabees fought for,” Katz said. “The Pilgrims left their homeland for religious freedom.”

And both holidays are known for special foods.

Members of Temple David experimented with new recipes that combined traditional Jewish food with Thanksgiving staples, such as sweet potato latkes.

“For one week of the year, no one feels guilty about eating fried food,” Katz said.

“They eat doughnuts fried in oil in Israel. It's a wonderful excuse.”

The use of oil, especially in making potato latkes, or pancakes, is tied to the miracle in the ancient temple of a little oil lasting for eight days.

Members of the Women of Ohav Shalom sisterhood gathered in early November to test some recipes from the Internet that incorporate the observances of both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

About 20 women joined Ellen Sapinkopf, president of the organization, to prepare a cranberry-apple sauce and a version of sufganiyot, doughnuts filled with a pumpkin buttercream instead of the usual jelly.

“It's nice because both are family-oriented (holidays) and they both have their symbolic food,” Symons said.

Some Thanksgiving dinners this year will include a “menurkey,” which is a menorah in the shape of a turkey, Korfin said. “Thanksgiving is an American Holiday, so for (Jews) who live in America, it's a special day,” Korfin said.

Kyle Lawson and Dona S. Dreeland are staff writers for Trib Total Media Lawson can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or Dreeland can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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