The last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped, Grover Cleveland had just won the 1888 election to serve as president of the United States (population, about 50 million). And the next time the two holidays will coincide, nearly 800 centuries from now, we’ll likely be spinning our dreidels on Mars.

The last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving overlapped, Grover Cleveland had just won the 1888 election to serve as president of the United States (population, about 50 million). And the next time the two holidays will coincide, nearly 800 centuries from now, we’ll likely be spinning our dreidels on Mars.


So it’s safe to say that "Thanksgivukkah" is a once-in-a-lifetime event — a fluke caused by differences in the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars. But for the small congregation of Jews at Sherman’s Temple Beth Emeth synagogue, the sheer size and scope of the secular celebration will make for a quiet beginning to the Festival of Lights, which begins its eight-day run on Wednesday night.


"The congregation just isn’t really doing much this year, because it falls the same time as Thanksgiving," said Beth Emeth Congregation President Andy Faber. "If we tried to do something this weekend, nobody would be here. They’re either going to be out of town at (relatives’) houses … (or) involved in retail."


According to Faber and his wife Monica, who live in Bells, sharing time with Thanksgiving won’t do much to dim the lights of Hanukkah — a holiday they say holds less significance for Jews than more deeply religious events like Passover or Yom Kippur.


"Hanukkah is not a big holiday in the Jewish religion. What’s made it to be a major holiday is the commercialization around Christmas," said Andy Faber. "If our kid were still in the house, it’d probably be a little different. But the Jews like us that don’t have a kiddo in the house, it’s not real ‘rah-rah-rah’ like Christmas."


"We’ll still light candles and stuff, but we just don’t make a big deal about it," added his wife.


The Fabers are a few of the two-dozen congregants at Beth Emeth, a small synagogue tucked in the shadow of Bearcat Stadium. The temple is a rarity in North Texas — it’s the only synagogue between Texarkana and Wichita Falls, and a person traveling north would get all the way to Muskogee, Okla. before finding another Jewish house of faith. The Fabers said worshiping on a virtual island has fostered an intense sense of community among the group.


"The larger congregations have trouble getting 10 percent of the (Jewish) population to a service; we usually get 80 (percent)," said Monica Faber. "We’re more like a family; we’ve raised each other’s kids."


"We have managed to keep the doors open and keep getting things done because we have a building and we have everything we need. We just don’t have a ton of Jews," said Andy Faber. "But we’re growing — not leaps and bounds, but every year there’s a family or two that comes in. We are in a very good (place) versus some of these other smaller congregations that are dying off."


The temple does not have a rabbi in residence, but brings one up from Dallas once a month to sermonize. On the remaining Saturdays, a member of the congregation leads worship.


"It’s hard to be Jewish in a small town like Sherman or Denison because of the fact that you’ve got to work towards it," said Andy Faber. "We don’t have services all the time, so you have to circle that day on your calendar that, ‘Yeah I’m going to go to services that day because that’s when the rabbi is here.’ For as small as we are, we really do a lot."


The couple said they will likely spend the opening night of Hanukkah with friends, enjoying some of the traditional Feast of Dedication offerings — foods that are traditionally fried in oil in remembrance of the Maccabees’ one-day supply of lamp oil lasting eight days.


"(The food) is big on the oil, because they used the oil for that lamp. So greasy food: potato latkes, which are like hash browns with a whole lot more grease in them; sufghanyiot, which is a jelly-filled doughnut; fried chicken."


Remembering the holiday concurrence on Thursday, Monica Faber interjected.


"Maybe we’ll have fried turkey instead of fried chicken," she said with a laugh.