Posted by Rimma Zelfand, CEO
Since the late 1800s, the first day of Chanukkah and Thanksgiving have not fallen on the same day – until this year. The convergence of these two holidays is so rare, the next occurrence won’t happen for more than 78,000 years.
Naturally, this once in a lifetime occasion has led many to humorously dub Thursday “Thanksgivukkah.” And why not? These two holidays - both with universal values like togetherness, hope, unity, and, of course, gratitude - are essentially sharing the same table. Families all across Massachusetts will be coming together as they always do to celebrate… And perhaps this year, they’ll leave a little room on their plates next to the turkey and stuffing for some potato latkes!
As we observe this dual holiday, it’s important to remember that for many people across Greater Boston, Thanksgivukkah will be like any other day – a day in which they are struggling to put food on the table for themselves and their families. Food insecurity doesn’t diminish during the holidays, it’s amplified.
I know this because at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, we operate Family Table, the largest kosher food pantry in New England, and provide healthy food to individuals and families in need. Each month, we serve almost 700 people, which is nearly 20,000 bags of groceries every year. The people we serve come from all walks of life, but despite their differences, their hunger is the same.
When Mayor Menino officially declared that Thursday would be known as Thanksgivukkah in Boston, he noted that as citizens, we can make the world a better place through the values embodied by both Chanukkah and Thanksgiving. With Thanksgivukkah as a backdrop, we have a rare opportunity to give not only thanks, but also charity. In Hebrew, we call it Tzedakah.
Regardless of what it’s called, I encourage everyone to reflect on this rarest of holidays, and donate food, time, or resources to JF&CS Family Table, or any reputable food bank in Greater Boston, so that others can truly feel the joy of Thanksgivukkah.
Rimma Zelfand is the CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Her first involvement with JF&CS began with her joining the JF&CS Board of Directors and the Strategic Planning Committee in 2003. In 2004 Rimma joined JF&CS as Director of Senior Services. She came to her role with 15 years of a very successful track record in leading and managing home care, home health, disease management, and elder care programs. Under Rimma’s leadership Senior Services grew and gained recognition. Her accomplishments included: launching the first NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) project in Massachusetts, creating the Parkinson’s Family Support program, and establishing the Geriatric Institute. From 2008 – 2011, Rimma served as the Senior Vice President for Programs.