History was made in Sydney Wednesday when the Jewish festival of Chanukah came to Parliament House for the first time since the New South Wales Parliament was established in 1856.
The event was initiated and hosted by the Yeshiva Centre – Chabad NSW Headquarters under the auspices of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
Premier Nathan Rees, Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Richard Torbay, Deputy President of the Legislative Council Kaye Griffin and Leader of the House John Aquilina joined over 70 members of Parliament, a dozen Ministers and shadow Ministers and over 100 Jewish community Leaders and Rabbis at a pre-Chanukah reception in Parliament to celebrate the festival.
A highlight of the occasion was the historic presentation of a pure silver Menorah to the NSW Parliament by the Chabad movement. The Menorah was presented by the Head of Chabad in NSW, Rabbi Pinchus Feldman OAM and accepted on behalf of Parliament by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and Deputy President of the Legislative Council.
In an emotional address, Rabbi Feldman spoke about the history and meaning of Chanukah and said that the Menorah, which shines its light and shares its warmth with those around it, is a fitting gift to the Parliament of New South Wales, whose Latin motto,”Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites”, means “Recently risen, how brightly you shine”.
The inscription on the Menorah reads as follows:
“This Menorah was presented to the Parliament of New South Wales by The Yeshiva Centre – Chabad NSW Headquarters, in recognition of the friendship bestowed by our elected representatives to all faiths, including the Jewish people. May the light of Peace and Harmony continue to shine brightly in this State and throughout our nation.”
In accepting the gift, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Richard Torbay said, “On behalf of the Parliament and people of NSW it is a pleasure to receive this gift of the Menorah which will permanently be on display here in Parliament, and which symbolize the values and morals which our society is blessed with.”
Other speakers at the event included Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, Deputy President of the Legislative Council Kaye Griffin, Leader of the House John Aquilina and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Robin Margo.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said: “The Jewish community is proud to be an integral part of this great state and this great nation. Holding a Chanukah celebration in Parliament House reflects the values of democracy and liberty which the Jewish community shares with the Parliament.”
The Chabad movement is holding public Chanukah celebrations later this month at iconic venues such as Martin Place and Bondi Beach.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Governor-General Quentin Bryce have recently visited The Yeshiva Centre – Chabad NSW Headquarters in Bondi where they were also presented with Menorahs.