BRATTLEBORO — Locally, the last night of Hanukkah culminated with Brattleboro Area Jewish Community’s new rabbi celebrating religious freedom with more than 50 people at the Common.
Rabbi Amita Jarmon, who spoke on the topic for the fourth annual Shine a Light series aimed at raising social justice issues nightly during the Jewish holiday, led a ceremony Sunday where candles were lit for different religions.
“The very fact that we can light Hanukkah menorahs here on the town Common shows the degree of religious freedom we have in Brattleboro and I would say in the state of Vermont, New England and even in this entire United States, where I know church and state, the separation, is becoming less and less clear,” Jarmon said. “But nevertheless, we still have religious freedom in this country. I’m coming from a part of the world where it is not something to be taken for granted.”
Jarmon spent the last 12.5 years working in Jerusalem as a physical therapist. Saturday was her first day on the new job in person, leading a local Shabbat service.
Jarmon had been going to the Shine a Light events, which had been held remotely except Sunday when a live option also was offered. She said she has been getting to know the community.
“It’s an amazing community,” she said in an interview. “I am blessed to be invited to be rabbi here.”
Growing up in Amherst, Mass., Jarmon was familiar with the local area. She said she hadn’t been planning to leave Israel but started to want be closer to her parents and siblings as they need more support.
When visiting recently, Jarmon attended a dance class in Northampton, Mass., where she ran into BAJC’s former rabbi who said the community was searching for her successor.
“It was very dropping down from the heavens,” Jarmon said. “It feels like the right thing.”
Before living in Israel, Jarmon served as a rabbi.
“I feel I have a lot I can bring, not just because I had been in Jerusalem, but I’m older,” she said.
Jarmon told event attendees she came from “an environment where religion is connected with the state.”
“We’re living in a place where we basically we have a tremendous amount of freedom still and a tremendous amount of tolerance, and where different religious groups work together, where it’s harder to find in other parts of the world,” she said.