2022 has been a difficult year for our brethren and sisters in Ukraine. Since the invasion of the Russian troops lots of people had to flee their homes and go to faraway places.
Those who were lucky enough to flee abroad were allowed to disperse across the European Union with 35,000 fellow Jews, and several thousand found their way to Israel. Others were less fortunate and found dead in their homeland, without having said goodbye to their loved ones.
Throughout the year 2022, Sabbath and other services were enormously difficult to maintain, yet our many brothers and sisters tried to adhere to them, even if it was with a Shabbos service in an underground station on Friday evening and during the morning of the following day. Coming closer to the end of the year, realizing that this horrible war would not be over yet by the beginning of next year, many wondered if it would be possible to commemorate and come to celebrate the triumph of freedom over oppression like our ancestors did?
Our people have more than once been the plaything of aggressors who did not mind torturing and killing people in terrible ways. This year proved no different from previous centuries. Some of us saw or had to suffer the cruellest things ourselves. It tore at their hearts, and at times it also strained their lives of faith. For those atrocities and untold itzavon (or suffering) were allowed to take place unhindered. And there seems to be no end to it.
For sure, this year our community could find consolation in the story of the Jewish rebellion led by the priestly family of Jews, the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and against Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. Several rabbis wanted to make sure the Ukrainians could remember how the Judaic leader Judas Maccabaeus recaptured Jerusalem and reconsecrated the temple.
On December 19 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saluted
“the Jewish community of Ukraine and all the Jews of the world on Hanukkah”
in his regular update on the war.
“Those who were outnumbered defeated those who outnumbered them,”
Zelensky said in an address.
“Light defeated darkness. It will be the same this time. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!”
Already more than once the Ukrainians were put in the dark because the Russians had destroyed the energy plants. Given Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian electricity infrastructure in a war that the Kremlin has portrayed as the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, these 8 days we are greeting with some joy, have a special co-notation.
“We are actually now living through the same situation,”
Rabbi Mayer Stambler told the Associated Press at a ceremony in Kyiv.
“This is a war between darkness and light.”
Dozens gathered at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Maidan Independence Square) in the capital of Ukraine for Hanukkah, where local Jewish leaders lighted what is said to be Europe’s tallest menorah, in a defiant message 10 months into punishing war.
At sundown, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko joined ambassadors from Israel, the United States, Japan, Poland, Canada, and France in a ceremony organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine to sing blessings under the flames of the menorah, which towered over the crowd and passing cars in frigid weather. Though it was cold, the warmth was in the hearts of those present, feeling united under God’s Guidance.
The Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky, said:
“I wish for the people of Ukraine all of that which Hanukkah symbolizes. I wish there was light on every Ukrainian house… and I wish you victory.”
Volunteers distributed thousands of menorahs, candles, printed materials, family puzzle games, and sweets for the holiday to members of Ukraine’s Jewish minority population.
In the bigger cities of Ukraine, there were also services.
At the 1913 synagogue from the second-largest city and municipality in Ukraine, Kharkiv, extensively renovated in 2003, people gathered to honour their El ʿElyon.
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6 gedachten over “Hanukkah gathering under the light in the darkness”