Food & Dining
Kam family plans ‘Thanksgivukkah’
by Bradley Hartsell
This year, for the first time since 1888, Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah overlap.
Popular estimates have the next occurrence 79,043 years from now. So for Jewish families in Coweta County, like Mike and Debbie Kam, this is the only chance in their lifetimes to celebrate the two major holidays together.
The concurrent happening is due to a rare quirk between the Gregorian (the standard U.S. calendar) and the Hebrew calendar. Thanksgiving, of course, is the last Thursday of November, while Hanukkah is the 25th day of Kislev, the third month in the Hebrew calendar.
Many Jewish families, like the Kams, are using “Thanksgivukkah,” as it’s commonly being called, as a day to combine Thanksgiving and Hanukkah traditions. The Kams are having family and friends over, where they will have turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie, but also fried donuts, a staple of Jewish holiday food. Many families will also make latkes, or potato pancakes, but the Kams won’t because they say it’s too much work for so many people.
“Hanukkah is a family time, but it’s not a big feast,” said Mike Kam, as the spread will mostly consist of traditional Thanksgiving foods, but the evening will transition into an observance of Hanukkah.
The Kams moved to Newnan in 1980. They went to high school with one another in Atlanta, two of four Jewish kids in their school. Debbie Kam likes to joke they could all fit in one car. Her husband jokes back, “And we oftentimes did, to go to synagogue.”
Mike Kam moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Atlanta in 1966 and decided to attend law school at Georgia. Debbie Kam came from St. Louis, and when they moved to Newnan, the Kams found there was very little Jewish culture in Coweta County.
“When we came here, we thought we were the only ones,” said Debbie Kam. “There weren’t many. Just a handful.”
She recalls her son getting in trouble in elementary school when the class had to write a story about Christmas. He told his teacher his family didn’t celebrate Christmas. To the teacher, that wasn’t acceptable.
There was also the time her daughter kept getting invited to Young Life by her friends, and her being frustrated and not understanding why she couldn’t go to their church. Even if it didn’t seem like church, it still was.
Mike Kam, who's been practicing law for 35 years and runs Kam, Ebersbach & Lewis in Newnan, even had a client walk out because of his faith.
“Is Ebersbach Jewish?” the client asked. “No, but Mr. Kam is,” said the receptionist. “Well, I don’t want him then,” the client said before walking out.
Even if that was the rare case of anti-semitism, the Kams admit there was an ignorance amongst peers.
“The kids could be excluded, but people were just ignorant — not mean or malicious — and they just didn’t understand,” she explained.
As Newnan boomed over the past decade, the community has been infused with different culture and, as a result, the Kams feel more accepted.
“You used to be afraid to move here. There weren’t any Jewish people,” she said. “Nowadays, there are more people around who are different and it’s much easier to be here now.”
Recently, Debbie Kam attended a Hanukkah party with a group of her friends in Peachtree City. She says she can’t imagine anything like that happening when they first moved to Coweta.
Nowadays, the Kams can have over their three now-grown kids and three grandchildren for “Thanksgivukkah” and know that somewhere just down the road, another family is doing the same.