Croatia’s Unity Menorah
The Jewish community of Zagreb, Croatia, gathered together for its first-ever public menorah lighting. Organized by Chabad-Lubavitch of Croatia, the event brought together close to 1,000 of the capital city’s Jews from two separate communities: The Jewish Community of Zagreb, known by its acronym ZOZ, and Bet Israel Zagreb.
“I have a great merit that in this city, the Jewish community can practice religion in freedom,” said Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, who attended the event on the first night of Chanukah and another one on the holiday’s last night. “In this city we can also light in the center without fear.”
According to former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yisroel Meir Lau, the menorah, which was a joint project between the city and the Chabad center, almost wasn’t erected due to security concerns.
Lau said that he told the mayor: “In every large city there are public menorah lightings, from Moscow [and] Paris [to] Africa. In Croatia, there will also be no issues of security.”
In the end, of course, the mayor agreed, but on condition that Lau himself come and light the menorah on one of the nights.
Zagreb’s separate Jewish communities came together in a show of unity for the occasion, with each of their representatives joining Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Mirom for the lighting in the city’s Yelachich Square.
“As children, we lit the menorah in the ghetto with margarine as oil and potatoes as the holder,” said Lau, recounting his experiences during the Holocaust. “Today, the city of Zagreb, Chabad and the Jewish community can be proud of the tall public menorah here today.”