Top Polish Leaders Celebrate Hanukkah in Parliament After Antisemitic Incident

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Members of parliament, President Andrzej Duda, second right, and the Polish Jewish community come together on the last night of Hanukkah for a candle lighting ceremony in parliament, in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday Dec. 14, 2023. The ceremony was held to send a message of tolerance and to denounce antisemitism after a far-right lawmaker used a fire extinguisher to put out burning candles on a menorah. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Top Polish leaders joined members of the Jewish community for a Hanukkah celebration in parliament Thursday after a far-right lawmaker used a fire extinguisher to put out burning candles on a menorah earlier this week.

The attendance of the president, speaker of parliament and other top legislative officials sent the message that there is no tolerance in Poland for the kind of antisemitic behavior that erupted in parliament halls Tuesday, shocking the country and drawing widespread condemnation across the political spectrum. A woman was injured in the incident and was still in a hospital two days later.

Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler of the Chabad community, who has organized the Hanukkah event in parliament for the 17th straight year, said: “We will dispel darkness through light, and we are lucky that a little light can dispel a lot of darkness.”

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President Andrzej Duda stood by a large menorah as the parliament speaker, Szymon Holownia, lit a candle, with Jewish community members lighting the others on the eighth and last night of the Jewish festival of lights.

Duda and Holownia are among the highest leaders in Poland. The other top leader, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, was in Brussels for a European Union summit. He also strongly denounced the earlier antisemitic incident.

“This is the true face of Poland,” the country’s U.S.-born chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said. “We are all together.”

Grzegorz Braun is a lawmaker on the extreme right fringe who is considered one of the most controversial officials in Poland. On Tuesday he grabbed a red fire extinguisher and extinguished candles on a menorah that were lit for Hanukkah, creating disruption and scandal as a new pro-EU government was beginning its work. A Jewish community member tried to stop him, and he reacted by spraying her with the extinguisher chemical.

Braun, a member of the Confederation party, has in the past falsely claimed there is a plot to turn Poland into a “Jewish state.” In May, he violently disrupted a lecture by a Holocaust scholar, Jan Grabowski, at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw. He grabbed the historian’s microphone and banged it on the lectern before going to a loudspeaker, hitting it and knocking it over.

He was banned from the parliament building on Thursday.

Poland was once home to a large Jewish community that numbered nearly 3.5 million on the eve of the Holocaust. Almost all of Poland’s Jews were murdered by the Nazi German forces that occupied Poland in World War II.

Source: VosIzNeias

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