Political leaders join Hanukkah ceremony in Polish parliament after far-right MP’s attack

Jewish leaders, the Israeli ambassador and politicians from across the spectrum – including President Andrzej Duda and the speakers of both houses of parliament – have attended a ceremony in parliament to light candles on the same Hanukkiah that was attacked two days ago by a far-right MP.

“This is the true face of Poland,” said Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi, at the start of the ceremony. It had been organised in response to the incident on Tuesday, in which MP Grzegorz Braun used a fire extinguisher to put out candles lit in a previous ceremony.

“When someone extinguished our candle…we lit it again,” continued Schudrich. “And that is a symbol of our Jewish and Polish history. This is not the first time someone has tried to extinguish our light. But they cannot extinguish us because we stand together.”

📸#Sejm. Ponowna uroczystość zapalenia świec chanukowych. W ceremonii uczestniczą prezydent @AndrzejDuda, marszałek Sejmu @szymon_holownia, marszałek Senatu @M_K_Blonska, członkowie Prezydiów Sejmu i Senatu, w tym wicemarszałkowie @MWielichowska, @wlodekczarzasty, @PZgorzelskiP i… pic.twitter.com/nJaLopJLKG

— Sejm RP🇵🇱 (@KancelariaSejmu) December 14, 2023

“You cannot fight darkness, but you can dispel it with light,” added Rabbi Szalom Ber Stambler. “Lighting Hanukkah candles is a symbol of igniting the light of tolerance.”

Braun’s actions on Tuesday were immediately condemned by all other political groups in parliament, as well as by President Duda and Poland’s Catholic church. Szymon Hołownia, the speaker of the lower-house Sejm, expelled Braun from the chamber.

Hołownia’s chancellery also submitted a notification of a potential crime to prosecutors, who confirmed this morning that they had opened an investigation into the case.

A far-right MP has been expelled from parliament after using a fire extinguisher to put out Hanukkah candles lit during a ceremony involving Polish-Jewish leaders and Israel’s ambassador.

His actions have been condemned across the political spectrum https://t.co/YxG9bv8FQN

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 12, 2023

On Wednesday, Confederation itself announced that it had suspended Braun from its caucus and imposed an indefinite ban on him from speaking from the Sejm rostrum.

“We completely condemn what happened,” said Krzysztof Bosak, one of the group’s leaders. “He caused great harm to all members of Confederation, tarnishing our good name with this hooligan action. I think he also harmed the Confederation voters who trusted us.”

However, Confederation has so far resisted calls to expel Braun entirely, rather than just suspend him. Hołownia has warned that, if they fail to do so, the group may lose the deputy speakership position that Bosak currently holds. Confederation also did not send a representative to today’s ceremony.

The Jewish community of Łódź respond to Grzegorz Braun’s antisemitic buffoonery in the best possible way pic.twitter.com/rrEX6nqh0U

— Daniel Tilles (@danieltilles1) December 12, 2023

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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