temple beth shalom

Temple Beth Shalom, Mechanicsburg, PA, High Holiday services, 2020

Rabbi Amita Jarmon Letter of Welcome

Dear Members and Friends of the West Shore Jewish Communities,

This is Rabbi Amita Jarmon, welcoming you to join me and the members of Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) in Mechanicsburg for High Holiday services via ZOOM this year.  Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism, who taught at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, famously said: “The past has a vote, not a veto.”  The services that I typically lead include most of the traditional Hebrew liturgy, with English translations which are sometimes literal and sometimes interpretive, and supplemental readings.  (If you are interested in borrowing a copy of our Mahzor for the High Holidays this year, please contact the office at tbshalom@gmail.com.

I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and came on aliyah to Israel in 1983.  I returned to the US in 1988, soon after receiving my Physical Therapy degree.  Having deepened my love of Jewish traditions, texts and community while in Israel, I eventually entered the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1999, receiving my rabbinic ordination in 2004.  I served as the full-time rabbi of a non-denominational synagogue in midcoast Maine through 2009.  Throughout the 21 years that I was back in the US, I felt a call to return to Israel. I finally took the leap and relocated to Jerusalem in July '09.  

During these 11 years, I have worked as a physical therapist in 8 long term care facilities in the Jerusalem area with Jewish patients from around the world (the kibbutz galuyot — “ingathering of the exiles”).  At my current main workplace, I feel a strong sense of community with my co-workers, who are secular and Orthodox, Israeli and Palestinian.  I also work as a dance therapist for individuals and groups of people with dementia.  To express the rabbi part of myself, I officiate at life cycle events in Europe and Israel, and tutor Hebrew and Torah trope on the internet.  

I have participated in various projects of Rabbis for Human Rights and Seeds of Peace, and serve on the Steering Committee of the Sulha Peace Project, which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for Listening Circles.  Instead of discussing political positions, which so often leads to arguments and conflict, in Sulha we share personal experiences and feelings, creating empathy.   

For the past decade I have visited the US each autumn and served various North American communities during the High Holidays. This will be my 5th year with Temple Beth Shalom.  My style ranges from solemn -- as I am always deeply moved by this beautiful, evocative liturgy, to informal and interactive.  This year we will be screen-sharing series of slides called “Holy at Home,” integrated with pages of Kol Haneshamah, the Reconstructionist Machzor.  I will invite participants to read the English aloud, there will be several opportunities for large group discussion, and also time in break out rooms for smaller groups to share responses to questions for contemplation.  

On behalf of TBS, I hope you will choose to join us for at least some of our High Holiday services this September.  Please contact email ibeckerman@verizon.net to register. 

Blessings to all of you for health, patience, clarity, empowerment and peace.

Rabbi Amita Jarmon