As you may have heard, Thanksgivukkah is coming. It is the perfect combination of Thanksgiving gratitude and Hanukkah miracles. Visions of latke-stuffed turkeys dance in my head. Yet as American Jews prepare for this once in a lifetime season of starchy gluttony, I am struggling with the sharp contrast of how much we have in the face of how many have so little.
Indeed, the ability to put food on a table nowadays seems, in and of itself, something of a miracle. Who has a job, who keeps their job, or whose partner suddenly falls ill seems arbitrarily determined. And from this randomness the thin line is drawn between those who know where their next meal is coming from, and those who do not.
In many ways, it reminds me of that favorite Hanukkah game we play each year. With each spin, the dreidel arbitrarily determines the haves and have nots. In real life, there is slightly more control over our fates and fortunes and yet often, you can make all of the best choices, play all of the best cards dealt to you, and still get the wrong roll of the dice, the bad spin of the dreidel. You could end up with none. This year, the number of children and families struggling with little or no food is at critical levels, and the need to share seems more imperative than ever.
This November, Congress’ deep and devastating cuts to the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) went into effect. To be SNAP eligible, you must be living at or significantly below the federal poverty level. According to their own data, nearly 50% of all SNAP recipients are children. In these difficult economic times, arguably the number of hungry mouths is going up, the cost of food is going up, and the federal assistance available to buy it is going down. I’ve never been very good at math, but I can tell you that sure sounds like a lot of hungry children this holiday season; kids no different from mine or yours. This Thanksgivukkah, there just won’t be enough latkes to go around.
I tried explaining all of this–or at least the cliff notes version–to my son. I know as parents we spend an awful lot of time talking about the silly and the frustrating and ridiculous things that come out of our children’s mouths, but just once in a great while they teach us something. After our conversation, Dylan got up and wrote a note that said this: “Because they need it and they are hungry. This is all of the money in my piggy bank.” And then he dumped the entire contents of his piggy bank out ($34.06) to be donated. I have never been so humbled and inspired by a 5-year-old before. He literally gave it all. At the tender age of 5, he gets what so many of us grown-ups seem to so quickly forget: the real miracle of the holidays is found when you celebrate your own commitment to love and honor your neighbor more than yourself.
And so this year, in this epic holiday season of both thankfulness and miracles, in a world and community that is deeply in need of repair, let’s make a few new miracles of our own. This year, let’s stand together and lead by example. Regardless of who you are, what you have, or what you celebrate, let’s make this the warmest and brightest Thanksgivukkah ever. Because what better way to commemorate a season of gratitude and miracles, than by standing together to share, heal, and nourish.
Below is a list of national partners you can join with to help feed hungry families this holiday season and all year round:
Scary Mommy. This is where Dylan sent his money. Your donation will help sponsor a family in need this Thanksgiving. There are money families still waiting to be adopted for the holiday season.
Mazon is the Jewish response to hunger. Learn more about their programs to end hunger and its causes as well as how to make Mazon an important part of your Jewish life.)
Feeding America is using a nationwide network of food banks, policies, and programs to help feed America’s hungry and help end hunger. Make a donation today or use this link to find a local food bank in your area and volunteer your time.)
Share Our Strength is working to end childhood hunger in our nation. Join them through your donations or by entering your zip code to find local organizations they partner with to ensure every child has access to nutritious foods.