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Norcross celebrates first night of Hanukkah

Rabii Yossi Lerman greets guests to the Chabad of Gwinnett's family Chanukah celebration and grand menorah lighting Tuesday night at Recreation, Cultural Arts & Community Center in downtown Norcross to celebrate the start of Chanukah.

Rabii Yossi Lerman greets guests to the Chabad of Gwinnett's family Chanukah celebration and grand menorah lighting Tuesday night at Recreation, Cultural Arts & Community Center in downtown Norcross to celebrate the start of Chanukah.

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Mollie Cole decorates a menorah during the Chabad of Gwinnett's family Chanukah celebration and grand menorah lighting Tuesday.

Were you Spotted?

NORCROSS -- The rains came in Norcross Tuesday night, but it would take a whole lot more than that to stop the lighting of a menorah.

Tuesday marked the first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of light. In Norcross, it marked the second consecutive year of lighting a 10-foot grand menorah by Rabbi Yossi Lerman of the Chabad of Gwinnett.

Original plans were for the family-oriented gathering to be held at Thrasher Park, but rain forced some quick thinking and a move to the nearby College Street Playhouse. Faithful followers and curious friends packed the room, more than 150 celebrating with music, food, raffles and fellowship.

"We are so proud to be citizens of this wonderful country, and citizens of the city of Norcross, or the state of Georgia," Lerman said as he prepared to light the first candle on the menorah. "This is a very happy moment, a very beautiful moment."

Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson also stopped by to lend his support.

"I know we wanted to be outside, but we made other arrangements and it was so good that everybody found their way over here to be with us," Johnson said. "It's great to join together as a community. We come from a lot of different backgrounds, a lot of different religions, but we can come together for these types of events and celebrate with you."

Last year's lighting was a much smaller -- and much, much colder -- affair held at the nearby Iron Horse Tavern. It was the first such public ceremony in Norcross and drew a few dozen participants.

Though this year's event was originally planned for the outdoors, participants crowded into the playhouse and made it a standing-room-only affair.

"I think it's amazing," said Esther Lerman, wife of the rabbi. "Just look at the turnout."