DURHAM — The Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center held their first public event Sunday night, with a small public celebration as they lit a 10-foot silver menorah on the lawn of the center, located on Main Street.

The entire community was invited to the celebration, marking the first day of Hanukkah, which this year began on Dec. 2 and ends on Dec. 10. An LED light show followed inside the center where the public was invited for light refreshments and to sing traditional Hanukkah songs like “Rock of Ages” and “The Dreidel Song.” For eight nights near or during the beginning of winter, Jewish people the world over gather for the menorah lighting ceremony.

"What a pleasure to be here to celebrate the festival of lights," said Rabbi Berel Slavaticki. "It is very cold outside here, but there is warmth in our hearts."

The Rabbi and his wife, Rachel, welcomed guests to the center. Rachel said the center has been open about six months and is there to serve the Jewish community in the Seacoast areas.

Rabbi Berel said their mission is spread their love, light and caring to the community.

"We want to raise awareness that we are here and to celebrate the holiday with everyone," said Rachel. "So, we decided to do a public lighting outside."

UNH President James Dean said he was happy to be included. He was invited to speak during the ceremony.

"This is a much more joyous occasion than the last time I was here," said Dean. "I was here following the murders in Pittsburgh."

Dean extended his warmest wishes  to the Jewish Community.

"This festival is about light, warmth and security," said Dean. "That's what I wish for all of you. It is easy to become discouraged by darkness but I work with UNH students every day and I see the light they shine on each other and on me. I am grateful to be here."

Jordan Haime, chair of the UNH Hillel, the Jewish community on campus, said the holiday is special to her and having the public menorah in downtown Durham means a lot to her.

"Hannukah came early this year and because of my class schedule, I cannot go home to be with my family," said Haime. "So I am grateful to have this menorah lighting. I think this festival of lights is a sign that the light is coming and that things will get better. I never thought I would see this here."

The Rabbi talked about the persecution the Jewish people have faced over hundreds of years. He said he was happy to be in a country where he is free to practice his faith.

"Here we stand proud in Durham, ready to pass our religion on the next generation," said Rabbi Berel. "People in the Soviet Union had to hide behind curtains to light their menorah. As we light this today, celebrate the beauty and joy of the night."

After a few false starts on the cold wet night, the first candle was lit. The crowd cheered and then they all went inside to celebrate together.