By David Fisher
On Nov. 27, I will proudly drive to New York for Thanksgivukkah, powered by vegetable oil that I collect and filter through Patriot Earth Fuel, a (very) small business I operate in Boston. This year, as happens about every 80,000 years, the first day of Hanukkah will coincide with Thanksgiving dinner. The Hanukkah story affirms conservation values, with one day’s worth of oil lasting for eight. Thanksgiving, in turn, reminds us to be grateful for the abundance we experience in our lives. Working to ensure that my own children will inherit a world more abundant and equal than mine is a true celebration of the day. Even as I relax from the work of repairing the world, I am proud to travel to my family on the power of homegrown, reused vegetable oil.
The Hanukkah story challenges notions of excess and encourages modest living. On the brink of military defeat, the Maccabees (Jews fighting the Greeks in the second century CE) were down to one day’s worth of oil. The oil lasted eight full days, and we Jews now celebrate with all kinds of fried foods, like latkes (potato pancakes). The waste oil from fried foods is what Patriot Earth Fuels collects from restaurants (special thanks to Rod Dee Thai Cuisine for partnering with us by providing used fryer oil), filtering it into clean grease that can power modified diesel vehicles. The business produces enough fuel for my car and a friend’s family farm. We conserve oil, just like the Maccabees, and we turn it into new abundance, following the message of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate abundant harvest, following the traditions of our American forebears. When I think of the earlier days of American history, I think of a time with far fewer everyday comforts: no chocolate, no cell phone, no computer, no fleece blankets, no asthma-preventing inhalers. Abundance has little relation to material wealth and property, and much to do with perspective. Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of the many blessings of my life and work with those around me to make sure that as many of my fellow humans as possible can live safe, healthy and productive lives.
The values of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving offer great hope amid the challenges of the world. In a time of increasing oil scarcity, just a quick glance at the headlines can remind us of the fragility of a global trade system dependent on oil-producing dictatorships. Conserving this resource is essential not only ecologically, but also politically. The message of reducing our own consumption is relevant socially too at this time of deepening wealth inequity in America. A walk through the different neighborhoods of any American city can remind us of the injustices that remain an unacceptable, everyday reality. Thanksgiving can remind us that it is simple things in life that are most critical: family, friends and good food. What spare time and resources we have we can use to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to meet their basic needs. Embracing abundance opens the gates of gratitude and generosity.
What better way to celebrate the conservation values of Hanukkah and the abundance of life at Thanksgiving than to travel to see my family, powered by reused vegetable oil? This homegrown fuel helps reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil, and it lightens the financial costs of traveling to celebrate this unusual holiday that jointly honors American and Jewish history. Maybe I will even deep-fry a Tofurkey when I get there, and use the waste oil to power my journey home.
David Fisher works part-time at JewishBoston.com, as well as serving as the director of Project CALL. Project CALL brings together youth from Boston and central Appalachia through dialogue, service and leadership to foster multicultural collaboration. He is proud to live in the city where he grew up and is a family-oriented, vegan Jew.