For the second year in its history, the Australian National Menorah was lit in the Parliament of Canberra, the Australian Capital Territory, on the eight day of Chanukah, the festival of lights. The event was organized by Chabad-ACT.
The event was attended by members of both Canberra’s Jewish communities and a large representation from Canberra’s major faith groups and community organizations. ACT politicians from both sides of Government were present as well as members of the diplomatic corps. Amongst them were ambassadors from several countries including Israel, Argentina, Romania, Hungary and the Netherlands.
Many of these key representatives amongst the more than 130 attendees in the Parliamentary function room were exposed to Jewish culture and Chanukah for the first time. It is being recognized as one of the most diverse gatherings of Canberra’s interfaith and cultural leaders that the city witnesses.
The formalities commenced with MC Harry Chaim Oppermann of Chabad-ACT welcoming all those present and calling up Rabbi Eli Feldman, Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and ACT, who gave an outstanding invocation prayer highlighting how lucky we are to live in this blessed Australia and urging all Australians to strive to live peacefully together.
Mr. Alistair Coe MLA, Deputy Leader of the Opposition (and instrumental in organizing the yearly function), then read out a special greeting from the Australian Prime Minister, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, which was sent in honor of the celebration.
A message from The Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Federal Leader of the Opposition, was then also acknowledged.
The speaker of the House, Ms. Vickie Dunne MLA, welcomed everyone to the Legislative Assembly and congratulated the organizers of the popular event, which brought together so many people from such diverse backgrounds. The Speaker moved the audience in giving some insights into the concept of the Chanukah oil.
Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, Chairman of Chabad-ACT, then delivered the keynote address.
His Excellency Mr. Shmuel Ben Shmuel, Ambassador of Israel to Australia, gave a powerful address calling upon the Australian community to keep up the fight against those who wish to destroy our values, emulating the Maccabees in the miracle of Chanukah.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Representing the Chief Minister, Mrs Yvette Berry, at her first Jewish event, spoke of what a pleasure it was to attend and give greetings at a Jewish celebration and for her to learn about the Jewish community and Jewish festivals.
Mr. Jeremy Hanson MLA, Leader of the Opposition, thanked Rabbi Feldman and the Israeli Ambassador for their moving words and said how delighted he was to extend greetings on such a momentous and unique occasion. The Opposition leader spoke of how the shared values of common good and spreading light are crucial to a secure future for all Australians and spoke of the great contributions Chabad-ACT is making to the entire Canberra community.
Mr. Theo Menachemson, Hon. Treasurer of Chabad-ACT, was invited to light the Shamosh, followed by Rabbi Eli Feldman, RAAF SQN Leader and Chabad-ACT Director Philip Creagh and the Israeli ambassador, who lit the candles, which was then followed by Rabbi Shmueli Feldman’s blessings. Maoz Tzur was then sung together.
The Canberra and region Jewish men’s Choir then came to the front and with great spirit and joy gave their first public (outside of Synagogue) performance, singing the Adon Olam. The crowd enthusiastically joined in.
Cocktails and gourmet finger-food with latkes and donuts, Jewish traditional Chanukah delicacies, catered by Canberra Kosher, and L’chaims continued to be served, with Jewish music in the background. Everyone had a truly enjoyable and uplifting experience.
Chanukah menorahs, chocolate Chanukah coins, dreidels and guides for the festival were gifted to the guests upon exiting.