Parliament ends and Chanukah starts

December 11, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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On the last sitting day of the Australian Parliament for 2020, Chabad ACT hosted the traditional “Chanukah on the Hill” ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament House attended by Members of Parliament and Senators including  Government Ministers and Shadow Ministers.

Rebbetzin Chasia Feldman, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, Senator Zed Seselja, Dave Sharma MP, Andrew Giles MP, Mark Dreyfus MP, Anthony Albanese PM, Rabbi Elhanan Miller, Josh Burns MP, Josh Frydenderg MP, Senator Stirling Griff MP and Bob Katter MP.

Jewish parliamentary staffers and community leaders were also in attendance.

Notwithstanding restrictions relating to the numbers of community attendees allowed and physical distancing, the event was a resounding success and a welcome conclusion to a turbulent year for our nation’s political leaders.

Chairman of Chabad ACT, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman MC’d the event and spoke of the significance of public Menorah lightings and the efforts of Chabad globally and nationally in spreading the message of the miracle of Chanukah, even where events are held in restricted formats.

Co-Director of Chabad ACT and Principal of the newly established Canberra Jewish School, Rebbetzin Chasia Feldman, spoke of the significance of how each branch of the Menorah lights up its surroundings with its own character, yet with a common elevated purpose, representing the diversity of our communities, inspiring them to work together to achieve our goals.

Rabbi Elchanan Miller from the ACTJC Inc was invited to lead the pre-Chanukah blessings on the kindling of the Menorah. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party was honoured with the lighting of the Shamash.

Jewish MPs Mark Dreyfus MP, Shadow Attorney General, Josh Burns and Senator Stirling Griff. lit candles with MPs Julian Leeser and Dr Mike Freelander joining later.

In his speech, Mark Dreyfus said: “There’s one more aspect of Chanukah that brings happiness to me and it arises from the way the Festival of Lights frequently coincides with the end of the Parliamentary year, as it does today – tonight’s the first night of Chanukah – putting aside our differences and the often bruising political contests that we’ve been engaging in all year and to instead celebrate, in particular, our shared belief in, and our commitment to Australia, as a nation that welcomes, respects, and nurtures people, cultures and religions from all over the world. I’d go so far as to suggest that here today members of all political parties can stand and embrace the idea of the “Light on the Hill”.

The remaining candles included were lit by Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, Senator Zed Seselja, Bob Katter, Andrew Giles and Dave Sharma.

Maoz Tzur and other traditional Chanukah songs were performed by The Canberra Jewish School choir.

Assistant Finance Minister Senator Zed Seselja helped to coordinate the event and read greetings from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Senator Seselja also thanked Rabbi Feldman for his exceptional leadership on the national level and for the important positive impact Chabad ACT continues to make in Canberra and surrounds.

Anthony Albanese delivered a speech as the first major party leader to participate in the Menorah lighting in Parliament House since the then Prime Minister of Australia Bob Hawke in 1988. Mr Albanese spoke about the enormous contribution Jewish Australians continue to make and reaffirmed his commitment to the safety and security of Australia’s Jewish community.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, spoke quoting the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in explaining the connection with Chanukah and education and the importance of imparting our cherished values onto the next generation through quality education. Mr Frydenberg reminisced how the songs that the Canberra Jewish Children’s choir beautifully sung reminded him of his own Jewish education as a child.

Further addresses were then given by  Mark Dreyfus and ECAJ representative Mrs Veronica Leydman.

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