November 22, 2013


Today won’t happen again for another 77,000 years, should time last that long: Thanksgiving Day in the United States coincides with the first full day of Hanukkah, the Jewish “Festival of Lights,” commemorating the time when one day’s worth of oil for the Temple’s menorahs (candelabras) stretched to last eight days until more oil could be consecrated.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Jews in the United States are taking note of something that last happened in 1888, and won’t happen again for those thousands and thousands of years. “Thanksgivukkah” is the amalgam, and one entrepreneurial type is selling a ceramic “Menurkey,” a menorah in the shape of a turkey.

Interestingly, both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah involve giving thanks to God, even if the blitz of food, football, a department store’s parade, and stroke-of-midnight (or earlier) “Black Friday” sales tend to get all the attention. Americans established Thanksgiving, later ratified by an act of Congress, to acknowledge the providential role of God in preserving not only the Pilgrim forebears but also this very nation through decades of expansion, contention, a civil war, and into an industrial age that again reshaped the landscape.6 1 7

Americans have even more to be thankful for today: despite economic and social challenges, including some never before seen here, we move along, and we are doing better than many other lands. I remain grateful not only for the religious liberty we have, but also for the growing ranks of people—Seventh-day Adventists and many others—who are taking up the cause of preserving and protecting those rights.

Hanukkah, though technically not a Jewish “holy day,” is a commemoration rich with meaning. The Temple had been desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and the Maccabees reclaimed the house of worship and began the process of sanctifying it again. Rabbinic tradition says they were able to find only one uncontaminated jug of oil—still sealed—and the eight-day miracle was afterward commemorated by an annual celebration of thanks to God.

That the two celebrations come together this year seems fitting: it’s good to remember that God has blessed not only the United States but other peoples and other lands as well. It’s also good to note on the American day of hyperconsumption that other people were grateful for supplies that stretched to meet needs. And it is fitting, I believe, to remember those who are in need, and to express thanks for our bounty by sharing with those less fortunate.

I’d like to propose something else as a Thanksgiving tradition, and that is that we might want to take time to thank those in our lives—family, friends, even coworkers and bosses—who have been or are important in many ways.

It just so happens that my father, Jacques Kellner of New York City, will celebrate his eighty-fourth birthday the morning after Thanksgiving Day. I’m grateful to Dad for many things, as you might imagine, but some of the most important are the lessons and examples he gave me. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, on the eve of the Great Depression and the outbreak of Fascism in Europe, Dad and his family made it from there to what was then Palestine to Kenya and eventually the Bronx, New York. A young woman’s piano playing next door attracted my father’s attention, and his 47-year marriage to Arlene Grossman Kellner ensued, along with, well, me.

My father’s greatest gift has been (and is) his example. He doesn’t quit—never has and never will, I suspect. Whether it was challenges growing up in a dozen different places and learning new languages and skills or working in business until he owned his own company or beating back personal problems or even surviving my mother’s passing 12 years ago, Dad has steeled himself and moved forward. He’s an inspiration to me and to many others who know him.

I’m grateful for the heritage my father has given me. Combined with a loving wife of 30 years, Jean, and good family and friends, I am blessed indeed. What and whom are you grateful for? And will you let them know?