Relighting the menorah
Relighting the menorahCourtesy

After a disruption at its 17th annual Hanukkah menorah lighting at the Polish Parliament building (the Sejm) by parliamentarian Grzegorz Braun on Tuesday night, Chabad of Poland returned to the parliament building to light new candles for the eighth night of Hanukkah. This marks the group’s 18th time lighting the Hanukkah candelabra in the heart of the Polish government.

The special event, marking the first time the Hanukkah menorah was lit twice in one year at the parliament building, was attended by members of parliament , Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, and the country’s Jewish community, and included a special appearance by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.

On Tuesday, the candle lighting ceremony was disrupted by Braun who took a fire extinguisher from a wall in the lobby of the parliament and walked over and extinguished Hanukkah candles, creating a cloud of white powder that forced security guards to rush those present, including children, out of the area, and left one member of the Jewish community hospitalized.

“Just a couple of days ago, as I walked out of this room to offer the evening prayers, I thought to myself- next year will be the 18th time we light the Menorah in the Sejm. Eighteen is a significant number in Jewish tradition, the numeric value of the word “Chai” or Life. The 18th lighting was to be an even more special occasion celebrating the continuity of Jewish faith and tradition in Poland, where Jews have existed and continue to exist, despite some of the dark episodes of antisemitism experienced within the borders of modern-day Poland over the last 200 years,” Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler, Chabad of Poland’s director shared with the audience.

“As we all know and have recently been reminded of the darkness of antisemitism. Be it the October 7 pogrom in Israel, which saw innocent civilians attacked on one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, brutally murdered, raped, tortured and taken captive, or events closer to home in Europe and in this very room itself. So tonight, as we light the menorah in this room for its 18th time, lets spread the light of religious tolerance, let’s stand together as one Poland united against antisemitism in every place, and lets celebrate “life” and the continuity of the Jewish community of Poland,” he added.

Rabbi Stambler then shared the background behind his group originally approaching Parliamentary leadership around Hanukkah 2006, and hosting the annual gathering ever since.

He shared, “The Holiday of Hanukkah is about spreading the light. 50 years ago, in the wake of the Yom Kippur war, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson launched a campaign among his followers, the Chabad Lubavitch movement, to light menorahs like this one across the world in every possible place, including ultimately the Sejm. In moments of darkness, our rebbe told us to combat it by spreading the light of religious tolerance. How apropos that today we return to this site to spread that light, along with the firm message- antisemitism will not be tolerated in Poland.”