In attendance were senior government officials including Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński; Chairman of Law and Justice Party Jarosław Kaczyński; and Parliament Chairman Amar Shalk.
Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau lit the menorah beside Chabad Rabbi of Warsaw Shalom Stambler. For Israel’s Chief Rabbi, this event constitutes a closing of circles. His father and predecessor former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, was born in Piotrków Trybunalski in 1937, a scion of famous rabbis.
During World War II, Lau’s parents and brother perished alongside the majority of Polish Jewry, while he and another brother were deported to a labor camp in Częstochowa in southern Poland, and from there to Buchenwald. There, a Russian soldier named Fedor Mikhailichenko took the boy under his wing and saved his life.
Says Rabbi Lau: “For me, this constitutes a closing of circles. Most of my family perished on this country’s soil, but today I am illuminating the darkness with these Hanukkah candles and thus perpetuating our glowing Jewish heritage.”
Rabbi Shalom Stambler, Chabad rabbi in Poland who has orchestrated the candlelighting ceremony in the Sejm for the past 13 years, adds, “Specifically in a country as Poland, there is great significance to lighting Hanukkah candles here in Parliament.
Whereas all of Europe is afflicted with anti-Semitism, there is great significance when senior government officials and rabbis perform this ceremony together and garner nationwide approval.”
Throughout the eight-day festival, several candlelighting ceremonies will be held in Warsaw. The highlight will be a special Hanukkah event in the Jewish Museum of Warsaw which will be attended by some 500 community members and feature Israeli performer Dudu Fischer.