November 29, 2013

A common ground of thanks


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday commemorating the Holy Temple’s re-dedication during the Maccabean Revolt, was a celebration of thanks long before President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the federal holiday during the Civil War.

This year, the two holidays intersected for the first time.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Rabbi Kari Tuling of Temple Beth Israel in Plattsburgh. “The two holidays have a lot in common. Both are giving thanks for what we have. In the case of Hanukkah, it was a military victory (defeat of Seleucid Empire). For the rabbis, it was a spiritual victory more than a military victory by focusing on the miracle of oil.”

Hanukkah means "to dedicate," according to Tuling.

In 165 BCE, Yehuda HaMakabi, known as “Judah the Hammer,” led Jewish forces to victory and liberated the desecrated temple.

During the Holy Temple’s re-dedication only one flask of holy oil could be found; enough for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, the length of time needed to prepare more kosher oil for the menorah.

The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, which is corrected for the sun on a regular schedule.

“So, we have leap years where we actually add a month, which is the Second Adar,” Tuling said. “That happens in the spring. Every seven years, we have extra month. This is the farthest out it will come on the solar calendar as early as Thanksgiving for Hanukkah and as late as Christmas. That’s the full swing.”

Many Jews served latkes with their Thanksgiving meals. Latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, recall the miracle of oil.

“My parents are not Jewish,” she said. “They are supportive and come to the temple sometimes.”

Tuling’s parents, Gerald and Carol Hofmaister, live in Plattsburgh. On the first day of Hanukkah, the Hofmaisters and grandson Benjamin Field made latkes.

“I had several close, Jewish friends in high school,” Mrs. Hofmaister said. “One of my best friends, her mom was a fantastic cook. She made a cookbook for the synagogue, and she tested each recipe.

“I don’t have it (cookbook) anymore,” she said. “It was so ragtag, I pulled recipes out. It was in bits and pieces and came apart.”

Each Hanukkah season, she likes to try new recipes.

“I’m not a cook that follows recipes,” she said. “This year, I’m taking two recipes; one I used last year and one that has a couple of things.”

For her latkes, she uses russet potatoes, Vidalia onions and gluten-free bread crumbs.

“A little bit of salt, baking powder and pepper, then you fry them in oil. You use vegetable oil.”

Schmaltz or chicken fat is the choice oil to achieve crisp latkes.

“I just use vegetable oil,” she said.

Latkes are traditionally topped with sour cream and/or applesauce.

“This year, I was going to make home-made applesauce, the real lump kind,” Mrs. Hofmaister said.


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SEE THE VIDEO Watch the Hofmaisters and grandson Benjamin Field make latkes in video by Staff Writer Robin Caudell with this article online at