Hansard records first Chanukah celebration in NSW parliament

December 6, 2009 by J-Wire Staff
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A Liberal NSW Member of Parliament spoke about last week’s Chanukah candle-lighting in Parliament…thereby recording the event for posterity in Hansard.

This is what David Clarke, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Industrial Relations, said….

David Clarke

David Clarke

Earlier this week our Parliament celebrated for the first time an event that has been a tradition for more than 2,200 years. That event is the Festival of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, which has been celebrated by the Jewish people down through the ages, in times of peace and prosperity and in times of tribulation and hardship. It was also a history-making event for the Parliament of New South Wales because it is the first time that Chanukah has been celebrated in our Parliament. Chanukah celebrates the dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem 22 centuries ago, and involves the kindling of the lights of a nine-branched candelabrum called a menorah and the partaking of traditional food in celebration with friends and family.

It is the celebration of the universal triumph of light over darkness, freedom over oppression and good over evil. These concepts are certainly worthwhile celebrating, and that is why it was good to see Chanukah being celebrated in our Parliament only two days ago. The idea of a Chanukah celebration in our Parliament was conceived through the vision of the good people of the Yeshiva Centre in Sydney, which is part of the Chabad movement, a vibrant part of the rich fabric of Judaism. The idea was endorsed and embraced by the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, long recognised officially and morally as the umbrella organisation for the Jewish community in our State.

The Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, the President of the Legislative Council, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and representatives of the crossbench parties gave their enthusiastic backing to the idea. As a result, two days ago a celebration of the Festival of Chanukah was held in our Parliament, attended by the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, the Premier and Opposition Leader, numerous Ministers and shadow Ministers, a major portion of serving parliamentarians, as well as community leaders and guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish. It proved to be an illustrious and happy occasion. Mr Robin Margo, President of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, opened the occasion with a welcome and overview. Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, OAM, who leads the Yeshiva Centre and the Chabad movement in New South Wales, gave a moving insight into the significance of Chanukah before conducting the traditional ceremony that has been observed by countless generations over the past 2,200 years.

Following the formal ceremony Rabbi Feldman presented to the Parliament a solid silver menorah to be held by it in perpetuity so as to serve not only as a symbol of the good values that Chanukah has come to represent but also as a sign of respect by the Jewish community for the values of freedom and decency, which our democratic Parliament upholds. Tonight I am honoured to be able to have recorded in Hansard these reflections on the first every Chanukah celebration held in this Parliament, as well as the positive and uplifting message that it represents not only for our Jewish community but also for those like me who come from a non-Jewish background.

I take the opportunity also to congratulate the Chabad community on its initiative. As I said earlier, it represents a tradition, which is a vital part of the rich fabric of Judaism. The word “Chabad” is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of wisdom, comprehension and knowledge. Whilst its formalised existence goes back some 250 years, the traditions upon which it is based go back thousands of years. It is seen as an energising force within Judaism, active in over 100 countries and seeking to encourage Jewish communities to what it regards as traditional practices and values.

My observation of those in the Chabad movement is that they do things with a sense of joy, enthusiasm, selflessness and optimism, and with an inner conviction that it is God’s will. They operate an amazing array of charitable and humanitarian programs, not only to the Jewish community but to the wider community. Whether it is helping victims of a tsunami in Indonesia, an earthquake in Turkey or a cyclone in the United States, that is where one will find the charitable outreach of Chabad.

They are strong supporters of family life and have a strong sense of personal morality. They promote the seven laws given by God to Noah as moral imperatives meant for all humanity as it is through Noah that all humanity derives its descent. For these and other reasons they have my admiration and respect. Tonight I pay tribute to the Chabad movement and the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies for the message that they bring from the Jewish community of the inevitable triumph of good over evil, a message that through the celebration of Chanukah has been brought directly into our Parliament.

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