Religious freedom may have made its way into the national political agenda throughout the past month, but it will be greeted with a celebratory tone at Launceston Synagogue on December 17.
Chabad of Tasmania is again inviting all members of the Launceston community to join them in the annual lighting of the Hanukkah menorah in what will be the sixth night of the eight-day holiday.
Now in its seventh year, the ceremony will feature a range of special guests, including MP Ross Hart and Launceston City Council mayor Albert van Zetten.
Organiser Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Yochanan Gordon said the event’s themes of freedom and tolerance are as relevant today as they have ever been.
“The menorah serves as a symbol of Tasmania's dedication to preserve and encourage the right and liberty of all its citizens to worship God freely, openly, and with pride,” he said.
“Specifically in Australia, a nation that prides itself as multicultural and equal rights for all, giving every person the right to practice his or her religion freely from restraint and persecution.”
Lanceston's menorah is one of more than 15,000 large public menorahs sponsored by Chabad in more than 100 countries around the world, including in front of landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin and the White House.
There will be added significance to ceremonies this year, with 2017 marking 50 years since Rabbi Menachem M. Sneerson initiated the Mitzvah Campaigns, laying the groundwork for the public menorahs and worldwide Hanukkah campaign he set in motion in 1973.
This year’s celebration even extends to Parliament House, with a menorah to be lit as part of a Hanukkah cocktail event on December 13.
Speaker of the House of Assembly Mark Shelton said he welcomed the chance for Parliament House to be a part of the custom for the first time.
“I was delighted, as Speaker of the House of Assembly, to accommodate a request from the Tasmanian Jewish community (one of Australia’s oldest Jewish communities) to visit Parliament House for a Hanukkah cocktail event on December 13,” he said.
“Tasmania is a proudly multi-cultural state, which is enriched by our cultural diversity, and Hanukkah celebrates and encourages the rights and liberties of all citizens to worship freely and openly.”
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins on the evening of Tuesday, December 12, and concludes the evening of Wednesday, December 20.
It recalls the victory of a militarily weak Jewish people who defeated the Syrian Greeks who had overrun ancient Israel and sought to impose restrictions on the Jewish way of life and prohibit religious freedom.
Jewish teachings suggest they also desecrated and defiled the temple and the oils prepared for the lighting of the menorah, which was part of the daily service.
Upon recapturing the temple, only one jar of undefiled oil was found - enough to burn only one day, but it lasted miraculously for eight.
In commemoration, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting an eight-branched candelabra known as a menorah. Today, people of all faiths consider the holiday a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness.
“The message of Hanukkah is the message of light,” said Rabbi Gordon. “The nature of light is that it is always victorious over darkness. A small amount of light dispels a lot of darkness. Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”
Today, the unprecedented public display of Hanukkah has become a staple of Jewish cultural and religious life, forever altering the world Jewry and awareness of the festival, helping children and adults of all walks of life discover and enjoy the holiday message.
Another act of goodness and kindness, another act of light, can make all the difference.”Rabbi Yochanan Gordon
Throughout Tasmania, Chabad of Tasmania will be presenting many Hanukkah events and celebrations, including the public Menorah Lighting, Menorah Parades, and Latke Parties.
Rabbi Gordon said events such as the lighting of the Launceston menorah had built up a loyal following in the community since they were started.
“There was only a few people to start off with and then we started getting about 100 people each year,” he said.
“I think there might be a few more come along this year, due to the fact it is happening before the school holidays.”
To find a local event in Hanukkah or practically anywhere throughout the world, visit the international Hanukkah event directory at www.Chabadtas.com/ChanukahEvents.