“Good evening and happy Hanukkah, y’all,” said Rabbi Zalman Fischer, of Chabad of Augusta, which sponsors thecelebration.
More than a dozen vehicles, including a fire truck, streamed onto the common with electric menorahs strapped to their roofs.
The crowd watched flame throwers in a Hanukkah pyrotechnic show before a large, 7-foot-tall menorah was kindled.
The holiday, Fischer told the crowd as he recounted the history of Hanukkah, is inspiring for its focus on the transformative power of light.
“Tonight, we light one candle,” he said, but “it only takes one candle to disperse darkness.”
The word Hanukkah means “dedication.” The holiday commemorates a miracle that occurred when Jews rededicated their holy temple nearly 22 centuries ago after defeating the Syrian Greeks.
Though they found enough oil for only one night, the lamp they lit burned for eight days.
Rabbi David Sirull, of Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Augusta, was given the honor of lighting the first candle.
“Our friendship has blossomed over the years,” Sirull said of Fischer. “We have great respect for each other. They do a great job with this event every year, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Participants in the annual Hanukkah celebration are invited to collect toys or donations for the hospitalized youths at the Medical College of Georgia’s Children’s Medical Center.
MaLea Breland, of Augusta, participated with her son, Judah, 8, for the second year. Judah was one of several children to lead the crowd in Hanukkah songs.
“This is a really special event,” MaLea Breland said. “So many of the events this time of year are about the Christmas tree, and it can make a kid feel left out. This is something for us.”
They’ve been looking forward to the celebration for weeks, she said.
“I didn’t have this so much when I was growing up,” she said. “It heightens the excitement so much when we can come together to celebrate.”