NORCROSS — Cold wind whipping and huddled masses joined together, a giant 10-foot menorah was lit in downtown Norcross on Wednesday night, a historic happening marking the start of Hanukkah and meant to symbolize the city’s embrace of diversity.
Rabbi Yossi Lerman, director of Chabad of Gwinnett, did the lighting at the Iron Horse Tavern as several dozen faithful looked on.
“We loved the idea of bringing the menorah out to the streets of Norcross and Gwinnett County where we can all share it in this wonderful country of ours,” he said. “This is a message of fellowship, a message of hope and of freedom.”
A part of Sparkle!, Norcross’ month-long “celebration of holiday magic,” the lighting was readily visible to the historic downtown square, as the first such public ceremony in the city.
With plenty of Christmas festivities already on the docket, the first night of Hanukkah presented a chance for the area’s Jewish voice to be heard.
“We have Sparkle!, but we don’t really do a whole lot with the Jewish community, and I’m Jewish,” Iron Horse owner Mike Holley said. “It just adds a lot to the holiday season.”
Norcross Mayor Pro Tem Ross Kaul joined in the ceremony, aiding Lerman in helping light the candles to kick off the eight-day Jewish festival and speaking to the gathered crowd.
It was his first time lighting a menorah.
“We live in a nation where everyone can worship as they please,” Kaul said to the crowd. “We have these fundamental rights and we claim them tonight ... My understanding is there are about 4,000 Jewish people in Gwinnett, and as many as 1,000 in Norcross. So how awesome is this?”
For more information on Sparkle! events, visit www.aplacetoimagine.com.