The Management Board of the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw referred in a statement to the behavior of Confederation MP Grzegorz Braun, who extinguished Hanukkah candles with a fire extinguisher in the Sejm. “As the Jewish community, we express our astonishment at today’s incident in the Sejm. A pagan attack on people celebrating Hanukkah took place in the Polish temple of freedom and democracy,” they wrote. The letter was written to the Speaker of the Sejm by the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, and the chairman of Chabad-Lubavitch in Poland, Rabbi Szalom Dov Ber Stambler.
“Two thousand years ago, pagan militants unwisely destroyed the symbols of Judaism, trying to suppress Jewish identity. If they had succeeded, today’s European culture, Christianity would not exist and no one would celebrate Christmas in Poland in two weeks. Thanks to the victory of the Jews over the pagans, monotheism has survived and that is what an event that we celebrate during Hanukkah,” explained the Management Board of the Jewish Community in Warsaw in a statement.
The management board also emphasized that “anti-Semitic antics of marginal figures in Polish public life do not change anything; they only disturb the joy of our family holidays.”
The Speaker of the Sejm was also thanked for his immediate reaction and “for the words of encouragement coming to us from state authorities, social organizations, many MPs and senators, and representatives of churches.”
“Hanukkah candles symbolize tolerance and religious freedom”
The chairman of Chabad-Lubavitch in Poland, Rabbi Szalom Dov Ber Stambler, talked about the incident on TVN24. – I can’t say that I know what happened, one thing is certain, we lit Hanukkah candles. It was a ceremony co-organized with the office of the Speaker of the Sejm. A very beautiful moment, a moment of tolerance and mutual respect, and suddenly the candles weren’t burning, someone had extinguished them. I didn’t see with my own eyes who it was, he said.
The rabbi explained the symbolism of the candles. – They symbolize tolerance, religious freedom and freedom of identity for every Jew and every citizen of the world. Nobody will dictate to anyone how they should live, he said. He emphasized: we will continue to implement activities aimed at tolerance and mutual respect.
He also said that candles are lit everywhere, including: in London or New York. He emphasized that what happened in the Sejm will not eliminate this tradition, the opposite will happen, and “we will see more and more candle lighting.”
Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich and the chairman of Chabad-Lubavitch in Poland, Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber Stambler, wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Sejm.
“For many years, during the Hanukkah holiday, the Polish Sejm welcomed representatives of the Jewish community. Successive marshals and parliamentarians of various political options joined in the common celebration, focusing around light – a symbol of wisdom, tolerance and unity beyond divisions. Also today, the Sejm chancellery made it possible “We were very grateful to the Marshal, the Presidium of the Sejm and all parliamentarians for their quick and firm condemnation of this incident,” they wrote.
“We are afraid, however, that the message that has gone out into the world will destroy our many years of efforts to consolidate the image of Poland as a tolerant and open country to diversity. The Hanukkah holiday teaches us that even a small light can dispel great darkness. However, we must be persistent in maintaining this. light to effectively fight evil and hatred. That is why we are asking the Marshal to allow the candles to be lit again tomorrow,” they emphasized.
The clergy pointed out that “this situation requires action now, and not next year, on the occasion of the next Hanukkah.”
“Together, in a peaceful way, we must oppose anti-Semitic and aggressive actions. Our only chance is to overcome evil with good,” concluded the authors of the letter.
– I am ashamed that Poland elected such a terrible representative of our nation as a member of the Sejm, that such things are happening in the Sejm. I’m ashamed that he was elected. It doesn’t matter what voices – said Piotr Wiślicki from the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute on TVN24.
He said what Braun did could be a signal to those who want to act like he does. – Because if such a dramatic move can be made in the Sejm, it is a signal. What would happen if a member of parliament approached the cross with a fire extinguisher and poured it on the cross? I can’t imagine it, he said. And he added: we are a multinational country, we want to be an open, empathetic country, inviting everyone, and we extinguish the Hanukkah candles in the Sejm? It’s unbelievable.
Main photo source: Marcin Obara/PAP