At sundown tonight, a stream of flickering menorahs will parade through the streets of Augusta to mark the start of Hanukkah.
The Jewish Festival of Lights is an eight-day celebration marked by community dinners, an annual menorah-lighting and songs.
The menorah parade is a first for Augusta, said Rabbi Zalman Fischer, of the Chabad of Augusta.
Members of his congregation will drive 15 vehicles – including a decommissioned fire truck – from Old Furys Ferry Road to the Chabad’s storefront synagogue on Broad Street.
The cars will parade down Washington Road and Walton Way with electric menorahs tied to their roofs from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m. today.
At 6 p.m., Chabad of Augusta will hold the lighting of a 7-foot menorah at Augusta Common.
The annual event includes gifts for children, potato latkes and songs. Unopened toys will be collected in a toy drive for the Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center.
“Everything we do is about spreading the message of Hanukkah,” Fischer said. “It has a powerful message of light and freedom.”
The menorah serves as the centerpiece of Hanukkah celebrations because it’s a tangible reminder of the miraculous work of God, he said.
Hanukkah commemorates a Jewish victory in the second century B.C., after the temple in Jerusalem had been desecrated by the Syrians. On rededication of the temple, the Talmud records that the Jews found just enough oil to keep a fire burning one night. The oil, however, lasted eight days. Today, candles on the menorah are lit for each of the eight days.
At an annual dinner of the Augusta Jewish Community Center, prizes are awarded for the largest, smallest and most unusual menorah. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. Sunday. Potato latkes and turkey will be served. The children of the Augusta Jewish Community Sunday School will sing. At 5 p.m., the center will premiere Shalom Sesame, a special Sesame Street series featuring the character Grover in Israel.
Reservations for the dinner are required. Call (706) 228-3636.