For years, the city of Acworth has worked at celebrating diversity. So, adding a menorah lighting event this year for Hanukkah was a natural fit.
City officials approached Rabbi Zalman Charytan with the Chabad Jewish Center in Kennesaw with the idea, and the rabbi helped the city procure a large menorah, which now stands at the intersection of Main Street and Cowan Road.
"I said, 'Can we have a lighting, and would you come do that?'" Mayor Tommy Allegood said. "I think it’s important that we as a community create that tradition."
At the lighting event, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. today, Attorney General Sam Olens will speak on behalf of the state, and Charytan will share a Hanukkah message.
"The message of Hanukkah is not only a Jewish one; it’s universal," the rabbi said. "It’s a message of hope, a message of freedom and, specifically, a message of religous freedom. That’s something that’s a universal message. That’s what America was founded on. Hanukkah’s message is a very timely message and a very important message."
Tonight is the sixth night of Hanukkah, so six lights will be lit by using the Menorah's middle candle. Though the menorah runs on electricity, it will be lit with live fire for the ceremony.
"We’re going to be honoring the Jewish community members who are pillars of the community (by having them) light some of the candles," Charytan said.
The Chabad Jewish Center also hosts a menorah lighting event in Woodstock every year. That event, though, is on a much larger scale than the Acworth event is planned to be, the rabbi said.
"That’s a little bit of a different setting," Charytan said. "It’s more of a festival. This is more of strictly the lighting."
Charytan is glad that Acworth officials want to hold a menorah lighting.
"People have felt that during the holiday season their holiday never made it out there," he said. "They feel now their city is committed to diversity and recognizing the general holiday season. And, I think that’s a sign of the times. It’s a very positive sign when the city itself is dedicated to that kind of diversity. I think it’s a very positive thing."
Charytan hopes that other Cobb County cities will want to do the same in the future.
"There are more cities in Cobb County and, together with our sister organization in East Cobb, we’re going to reach out," he said.
Allegood said his plan is to make the menorah lighting an annual affair in Acworth.
"Celebrating diversity brings community together," he said. "We’re making sure this year that we’re continuing the celebration and reaching out and including the Hanukkah holiday. It’s an important part of celebrating diversity."