Syrian Refugees Celebrate Hanukkah With Berlin Jewish Community

Lighting of giant menorah shows 'that peace and tolerance are stronger than any dispute,' says Berlin rabbi.

Two rabbis stand on a elevated platform as a giant eight- branched candelabrum Menorah is installed in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, December 4, 2015.
AFP

Syrian refugee children joined local Jewish kids to light the giant Chabad menorah at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Sunday.

Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and representatives of Berlin mosques attended the Hanukkah ceremony.

At a time when concerns have been raised about possible anti-Semitism among the 800,000 Muslim refugees now seeking asylum in Germany, the joint celebrations sent a message “that peace and tolerance are stronger than any dispute,” said Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, the head of Chabad in Berlin, at the ceremony.

“Those who spread fear have but one purpose, to destroy the unity and peace between cultures,” he said.

The annual celebration at Brandenburg Gate took place even though many Jews in Germany are hesitant to display religious symbols openly following an increase in anti-Semitic violence in Europe. Chabad claims its menorah is the biggest in Europe, and has been lighting it in a public ceremony at the historical landmark for 14 years.

German Minister of Culture Monika Grütters also lit the menorah. Other guests included the U.S. ambassador to Germany, John Emerson; Israeli diplomat Avi Nir, and the ambassadors of Britain, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, Brazil and Denmark.

“It is very symbolic that here at the Brandenburg Gate, which symbolizes Germany’s greatest moments on one hand and its darkest on the other, we celebrate Hanukkah together,” Grutters said.

Also Sunday, a family of Turkish Muslim background joined Jewish families in creating their own menorahs in a program at the Frankeluefer Synagogue in Berlin.

The following day, refugees from Iraq’s persecuted Yazidi community helped light a menorah at the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin. The Yazidis are a monotheistic sect that has been targeted for genocidal persecution by ISIS.