Monday, December 22, 2008

Poland's President Celebrate's Chanukah in Warsaw


Poland's president celebrated the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue Sunday.

Lech Kaczynski's visit marked the first time the head of state has attended a religious service at a synagogue in Poland, whose Jewish population was nearly wiped out in the Holocaust and later suffered from communist-era repression.

As Kaczynski entered Warsaw's century-old Nozyk synagogue just after sundown, the congregation rose and a group of Jewish children sang "Shalom Aleichem" — "peace be upon you."

Wearing a yarmulke, Kaczynski strode to the front of the synagogue, where he sat as a choir sang the Polish national anthem and a song in Yiddish — the language spoken by many of the nearly 3.5 million Jews who lived in Poland before World War II.

Kaczynski then lit a cream-colored candle that was placed on a silver menorah.

Piotr Kadlcik, the head of the country's Jewish community, said a pre-World War II president, Ignacy Moscicki, visited a synagogue in the 1920s — but that was not for a religious ceremony and he did not spend time with the
congregation.

Kaczynski, himself a devout Roman Catholic, has long been a friend to the Jewish community. (Source: AP)

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