At Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the first light of a giant Hanukkiah was lit on Sunday. At the ceremony, Rabbi Yahudah Teichtal welcomed the President of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht and the actress Iris Berben.
Berlin, November 28th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — For the 16th time, Berlin’s giant ‘Hanukkah Menorah’, or Hanukkiah, was lit right in front of Brandenburg Gate. Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, the President of the Chabad Jewish Education Center in Berlin, had a lot of support during the ceremony on a cold evening. He and the new President of the Berlin Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, were lifted to the top of the Hanukkiah by a crane just before she lit a gas light which symbolized the first candle.
‘Let there be Light!’
Hanukkah was about light in the darkness, the orthodox Rabbi told some 120 guests and about twice as many spectators at Brandenburg Gate. The Jews would prevail against both the rising antisemitism in Germany and the Corona pandemic. “We are looking ahead”, Teichtal stated. He predicted a “positive future for Jews in Germany”. Berlin was a city of tolerance. He wished everyone a happy Hanukkah. “Let there be light!”, the Rabbi exclaimed.
Bärbel Bas held a short speech as well. This was “a special anniversary” she said. Jewish life in Germany had begun 1,700 years ago. While this was a very positive fact, Jews were still becoming the victims of attacks. There were many forms of antisemitism which mainly developed from hatred and ignorance. “None of all those forms of antisemitism are tolerable”, Bärbel Bas stated. “We have to do more against Jew hatred, racism and misanthropy.”
‘Sign of Tolerance’
The Bundestag’s Vice President Claudia Roth pointed out that German Christians had lit the first candle of their advent wreaths today. Christians and Jews had a lot in common, including the first light on this day. Iris Berben, one of Germany’s most famous actresses, was at the ceremony as well. She was invited because of her long commitment for Jewish causes. She said the big Hanukkiah showed that Jewish life in Berlin was blossoming. Now, it could be visible again. The light of the first candle was a sign of tolerance that was sent out. The Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, and some of his colleagues from other countries joined too, including Ambassador Ricardo Martínez Vázquez from Mexico.
Berlin’s giant Hanukkiah is 10 meters (33 feet) high. Thirty-five smaller ‘Hanukkah Menorahs’ were set up all over the city, including at ministries and the Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, a famous square in the Charlottenburg borough. Just hours before the lighting ceremony, the illumination of a big Christmas tree was switched on just a few steps east of the Hanukkiah.
‘Hope in Difficult Times’
Berlin’s departing Governing Mayor Michael Müller did not join the Hanukkah ceremony at Brandenburg Gate this year. But he released a statement that said the city was thankful and glad the tradition of lighting the first candle had been observed for sixteen years now. Jewish life was an inherent part of the city. It was up to everyone to make sure everyone could live in Berlin without fear. The light was a sign of the empowerment of Jewish life in Berlin and all of Germany, Müller’s statement read. It was also a sign of hope in difficult times.
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