Polish leader at Hanukkah thanks Jews for aiding Ukrainians
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president led a Hanukkah ceremony on Monday where he paid tribute to Jewish communities in Poland and worldwide for the help they have extended to Ukrainian refugees this year.
Poland borders Ukraine to the west and has accepted millions of refugees, including many who have chosen to remain. Poland’s Jewish community has been active in organizing housing, food, education and other kinds of help for them.
President Andrzej Duda said that as “the host of this land,” he was grateful to the Jewish community for what it has done.
“Thank you so much for welcoming our guests, newcomers from Ukraine, into your community, into your homes, into your prayers,” Duda told those gathered in the presidential palace in Warsaw.
He noted that the Jewish community has helped both Ukrainian Jews and non-Jews.
Hanukkah, the festival of lights, celebrates light overcoming darkness, powerful symbolism as Ukrainians suffer in the dark and cold amid repeated Russian attacks on their power infrastructure.
Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said it was a time “to remember also those who have no light.”
“We pray that next year, the next Hanukkah, there will be light in Ukraine, too.”
Poland was once home to a Jewish community that numbered more than 3.3 million. Most were murdered by the German forces who invaded and occupied Poland during World War II.
“We know what it means to be a refugee, we know what it means to run from death,” Schudrich told The Associated Press ahead of the candle lighting event.
Today, Poland’s Jewish community is growing but remains small. Its efforts to help refugees have been funded from abroad, particularly by the Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group that has raised more than $84 million to help Ukrainians harmed by the war.
The organization’s president, Eric Fingerhut, told the AP that the symbol of light shining through the darkness is relevant now for Ukraine given the “deliberate effort by the Russians and their military operation to knock out lights and power and make the country dark.”