“Hanukkah is a celebration of joy and happiness.” Report from the Hanukkah gala concert on 29th November

Written by: Przemysław Batorski
On 29th November 2021, a Hanukkah concert was held at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, during which the audience heard the music of Sergei Prokofiev and George Gershwin. The concert was organized by the Jewish Historical Institute in cooperation with the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland, the Chabad Lubavitch Poland community and the Warsaw Ghetto Museum.
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Photo by Bartek Sawka (JHI)


The audience listened to the Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34 by Sergei Prokofiev performed by: Krzysztof Bąkowski – first violin, Michał Szałach – second violin, Grzegorz Chmielewski – viola, Mateusz Szmyt – cello, Grzegorz Gorczyca – piano, and Adrian Janda – clarinet, and George Gershwin's Blue Rhapsody and An American in Paris performed by pianist Paweł Kowalski and the National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maciej Tomasiewicz. The event organized on the second day of Hanukkah was attended by representatives of the government, local authorities, diplomats, cultural institutions, and clergy, as well as associates and friends of the Jewish Historical Institute.

– Thank you for coming and spending this special, second day of Hanukkah in the year 5782 with us – said Monika Krawczyk, director of the JHI. – This moment is a good opportunity to thank the employees of the Jewish Historical Institute who on a daily basis contribute to spreading knowledge about the history and culture of Polish Jews.

– After Judah Maccabee defeated the Greek king Antiochus and cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem of foreign gods, it was time to light the sacred lampstand, the menorah. Its flames burned miraculously for eight days, even though there wasn’t enough specially blessed oil. In memory of this event, which took place in about 140 BC, for eight consecutive days after sunset, Jews light Hanukkah candles – one more each day. They say blessings and sing the song Maoz Tzur, meaning "Strong Rock (of my Salvation)", which is a hymn to G–d, His faithfulness and incomparable power in our lives – added Monika Krawczyk. – I wish you a Hanukkah full of light and happiness. May the glow of the Hanukkah candles unite us today, encourage us to remember the thousand-year presence of Jews in Poland and build good Polish-Jewish relations.

– Hanukkah is a celebration of joy and happiness, during which each blessing has a special power – said Rabbi Shalom Dow Ber Stambler, chairman of Chabad Lubavitch Poland. Then, together with Artur Hofman, the president of the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland, and Albert Stankowski, the director of the Warsaw Ghetto Museum, they lit the hanukkiah candles – the shamash and two candles symbolizing the second day of the holiday.

The concert was introduced by Andrzej Sułek, who emphasized that the Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34 by Prokofiev was created almost by accident – the composer, when asked to write a piece referring to the history of the Jews, was not immediately convinced of the idea. – It is a piece about looking for your place in the world, about a journey – said Sułek. Similar was the fate of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which did not immediately become one of the most important pieces of 20th century American music. The concert was concluded with the performance of the symphonic poem, An American in Paris.


Paweł Kowalski is one of the most versatile Polish musicians performing over forty pieces for piano and orchestra from Mozart and Chopin to Panufnik, Kilar and Górecki, recitals, chamber music, film music and jazz. He has performed in all Polish philharmonics and, amongst others, at Salle Pleyel in Paris, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Tonhalle in Zurich, Conservatoire Royal of Brussels, Conservatori Superior in Palma de Mallorca, Auditorio Mozart in Zaragoza, Palau de la Musica in Valencia, and Bartok National Concert Hall in Budapest. Juror of six international piano competitions; commented on the 2015 and 2021 International Chopin Competition for TVP Kultura.

Conductor Maciej Tomasiewicz graduated in composition and music theory as well as symphonic and opera conducting at the Academy of Music in Katowice. He has conducted concerts, including with the National Philharmonic, the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, the Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra, the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, the Polish Radio Orchestra, the Kalisz, Silesian, Świętokrzyska, Zielona Góra Philharmonic, and the New Music Orchestra. In 2020, he took the position of artistic director of the Silesian Chamber Orchestra.





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Institution organized by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage

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Co-organizers of the concert:

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The Art and Passion Foundation is the partner in the organization of the concert

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Przemysław Batorski   JHI Web Editor