A Parliamentary Chanukah

November 22, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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Chanukah got off to an early start when Rabbi Pinchus Feldman lit all eight candles at a special ceremony in the NSW Parliament.

A fully lit Menorah by Rabbi Pinchus Feldman

A fully lit Menorah by Rabbi Pinchus Feldman

Premier Barry O'Farrell    All pix: Henry Benjamin

Premier Barry O’Farrell All pix: Henry Benjamin

The event, co-hosted by the Sydney Yeshiva and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, was attended by many NSW State politicians as well as Federal members Michael Danby and Josh Frydenberg together with NSW Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

During his speech preceding the lighting of the candles the Yeshiva’s Rabbi Feldman recited a special prayer for the victims of the Philippine typhoon as well as victims of other disasters around the globe.

Speakers included Premier Barry O’Farrell, Leader of the Opposition John Robertson, President of the NSW Legislative Council Don Harwin, Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly Shelley Hancock and President of the NSWJBD Yair Miller.

In his address, Premier Barry O’Farrell reaffirmed Don Harwin’s statement  that the NSW Parliament was the oldest in Australia and effectively where modern-day Australia began. He said that Chanukah not only represented a story of multiculturalism but also one of multi-faith. He added: “The story of the Jewish people is a story of survival. Your values, the values of Judaism,

Rabbi Pinchis Feldman, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Premier Barry O'Farrell

Rabbi Pinchis Feldman, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Premier Barry O’Farrell

underpin Western society.”

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg, Rabbi Dovid Slavin, Rabbi Mendel Kastel and Labor MP Michael Danby

Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg, Rabbi Dovid Slavin, Rabbi Mendel Kastel and Labor MP Michael Danby

He told a WWII story from Holland which he described as “a Chanukah miracle”. He said: “A young woman who had survived too many pograms decided to flee and to change her name and pretend she was Christian in order to survive the war.The good news is that she did. The bad news is that she left her home by train with a package packed for her by her sister on the eve of Chanukah with all the usual Chanukah treats including latkes. As she was sitting in the train with part of her luggage a Gestapo officer walked into the carriage and she suddenly realised that within her luggage was something that would disclose her religion…something that could have ultimately have lead to her death. As she worried about this a young girl who was eating an apple, spat the apple out and as luck would have it, like a miracle of Chanukah, the Gestapo officer slipped on the apple and knocked himself out and was carried out of the carriage.”

NSWJBF President Yair Miller

NSWJBF President Yair Miller

Leader of the NSW Opposition John Robertson

Leader of the NSW Opposition John Robertson

He added that for that woman, who went on to survive the war, it was a Chanukah miracle.

He finished by telling the community that as Chanukah begins next week, they should consider just how much the NSW Jewish community is appreciated. He said: “Despite your history, despite the  various obstacles that been thrown in your path, wherever you have gone, wherever you have settled, and thankfully so many of you have settled here in Sydney and in NSW, you have succeeded. Not just professionally but you have succeeded in adding depth and breadth to the societies of which you have been a part.

Rabbi Feldman explained to J-Wire: “I lit the candles without invoking the proper blessing…that way we could symbolically light the Menorah.

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