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Sunday, 9 December 2018

Presidential address during a Hanukkah ceremony

A Hanukkah ceremony held at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Sunday

Most Esteemed Rabbis,

Most Esteemed Professor, Knight of the Order of the White Eagle,

Most Esteemed Chairpersons, Presidents,

All Esteemed Guests attending the Ceremony,


See also: Hanukkah candlelighting ceremony I am delighted and grateful that we can meet with You, with representatives of the Jewish community in Poland on this festive day. The day which on the one hand is the feast of joy, but on the other, also the feast of a great miracle and, to a certain extent, a symbol of survival.

I am glad that that the turnout is so high, precisely in this year which is symbolic also for Poland, the year of the centenary of regaining independence, in commemoration of the day from more than  2150 years ago, from the year  164 or 165 B.C., when the Jewish Nation was living under the yoke of oppressors from the Hellenic Seleucid dynasty, led by King Antiochus IV, who went at least one step too far. For he decided to deprive the chosen people of their faith, tradition, customs. He decided to force Jews into confessing a Hellenic polytheistic religion. He placed the statues of his gods in the Jerusalem Temple and banned Jewish customs.


As a result, the famous rebellion of the Maccabees broke out and finally, led by Judah Maccabee, Jewish insurgents managed to drive the Hellenians out and retake, recapture the temple from their hands. And in the whole temple, during their big search, they managed to find just one bowl of oil, which, as the tradition has it, would normally last for one day.  They kindled it, having first reinstalled the altar, made a sacrifice and prayed. And a miracle happened – since that one bowl of oil kept the lamp burning for eight days.


And precisely in memory of that event, that joy of victory, the survival of the oil and the light, before new oil was produced according to the custom, does the Jewish community all over the world, do the chosen people celebrate this festival: the Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Dedication. I am grateful that precisely on this festive day, in the year of the centenary of Polish independence can we come together as a community, a community of people living in Poland, those who make up the Polish society here, those who want to be together.


Thank you for having accepted the invitation to the Presidential Palace, for Polish Jews stand for a great Polish tradition, over one thousand years of common history. It comprises beautiful and difficult moments, but also a number of people who are a lasting part of Poland`s history, who have become an important element of our culture, tradition, of all the things we call Polish today. And all the things which, to a certain extent, are Jewish as well. Because that wonderful, ancient culture also shaped our culture and tradition. Not to mention the Catholic faith, which is confessed by Poles, with the Old Testament being its crucial element.


I am pleased that we can be together in the year commemorating the centenary of Polish independence, the year in which I  had the honour of awarding the Orders of the White Eagle to two Polish Jews: Lt Col Baruch Steinberg, who was murdered in Katyń as a Polish soldier, a Polish officer, and at the same time as the Chief Rabbi of the Polish Armed Forces and Henryk Goldszmit, aka Janusz Korczak – a great man, a wonderful role-model of humanism, of care of the youngest ones and attention for another man.


I am glad that we are here together to rejoice in this Hanukkah light. I thank you very much for that. May this light, especially in the centenary of regaining independence, also be a symbol of survival of Polish Jews, bearing in mind all the dramatic moments as well as twists and turns of the history. A symbol of indestructibility.


Thank you very much.


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