Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Hanukah!

An interim in the Christmas series: today is the first day of Hanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. As you know, for centuries, Jews were a very significant community in Poland, and it breaks my heart every time I realise how few of them are left. But Judaism is still alive in my country, as proven by the many festivals and events, and the small but faithful communities who gather for the Jewish holy days.

Hanukah in Warsaw
Rabbi Michael Schudrich lights the first candle.

Today, head Rabbi for the Jewish Community in Poland, Michael Schudrich, lit the first candle on a large Hannukiyah set up on the Grzybowski square in Warsaw. The square is in a part of town that used to be populated mostly by Jews, and was closed in as the Ghetto during the war. Nearby is Próżna street, the only street in Warsaw where pre-war buildings remain on both sides, and the Nożyk synagogue- this area is nowadays the heart of Jewish activity in the capital.

As Rabbi Schudrich said, Hanukah is a commemoration of one of the first fights for religious freedom- a fight won by the Maccabees over two thousand years ago. He stated the importance of freedom, not only of religion but of expression, and recalled that Poland itself fought a similar fight only twenty two years ago.

I'd like to wish all my Jewish readers a happy Hanukah. Wesołej Chanuki! Chag Hanukah Sameach!

Hanukah in Warsaw
The Jewish Choir 'Tslil' sang a range of songs in hebrew, yiddish, and ladino

Hanukah in Warsaw
A hannukiyah made of candles on the sidewalk.

Hanukah in Warsaw
A variety of people showed up. In the background, note the Palace of Science and Culture, a Warsaw landmark.

Meta information:
Portal for the Jewish Community in Poland:
Wikipedia entry on Hanukah (spelling varies):
Official page for the Tslil Jewish Choir:

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