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Father and daughter seek light Hanukkah candles for equality

December 3, 2018

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — Shine A Light started Sunday night with daughter-father duo Maris and Moss Linder of Townshend lighting Hanukkah candles in the name of women’s equality.

That was the last social justice topic they could choose for the eight-day celebration occurring in downtown establishments this week. But “it means a lot to me,” said Maris, 17, as she stood in the front area of Elliot Street Fish, Chips & More.

“I like the idea of shining a light on social justice issues,” she said. “I think it’s unique.”

She left basketball practice a little early to make it in time to light candles, pray and sing songs for the holiday.

“I thought it was a great thing to do,” Moss said. “Just the whole concept was great for her.”

Several years ago, Maris had her bat mitzvah with the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community. The reform congregation decided to put a new twist on the Hanukkah tradition this year.

“This is a brand new idea, never done before,” said Laura Berkowitz, co-president of Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, who has been talking for months about “reinvigorating” her group’s social justice element. “I wanted to do more.”

Berkowitz said she convened a meeting of activists, Jews and non-Jews, and someone suggested having a holiday lighting at Pliny Park downtown. Not wanting to stand outside in the cold, she suggested finding indoor places to light candles and shine a light on specific issues.

Berkowitz began calling downtown businesses “kind of randomly.”

“Everyone was really enthusiastic,” she said. “And it just took off from there. I have businesses already who are like, ‘Oh, why not me?’”

She’s already thinking about next year.

While Berkowitz did not know Elliot Street Fish, Chips & More co-owner Erin Scaggs before, she knew that Scaggs had erased an antisemitic message discovered on a sidewalk near her restaurant in June. Scaggs had replaced the words written in chalk with hearts and the word “love,” using the same medium. She is one of three women who own the business.

Berkowitz said Scaggs was “really excited” to participate and was “psyched” to host the candle lighting for women’s equality.

At the lighting, Ami Ji Schmid of Brattleboro told attendees she has been saying “I’m almost 60” for two years to get ready for it.

“It has taken me a really long time to realize that being a woman means something different than being a human, positive and negative,” she said.

Alyse Landis-Denton of Brattleboro said she was feeling “the light and fire” of women.

“When lighting these candles, there’s that fire of hope and the desire to continue to uplift women,” she said, “but it’s also for me so much of a celebration of the women who are standing up and leading right now.”

Only after Twice Upon A Time agreed to host the addiction/recovery lighting on Tuesday did Berkowitz find out representatives from the Turning Point treatment center would be at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center that night for an event that is part of photographer and essayist Michael Poster’s recovery portrait exhibit called “If She Has A Pulse, She Has A Chance.”

So the candle lighting will be held at the museum instead. People who come to Twice Upon A Time will be re-directed.

Candle lighting begins at 5:15 p.m. each night this week. Twin Flames Tacqueria is hosting Monday for antisemitism. Altiplano has Wednesday for homelessness. Beadniks has Thursday for religious freedom.

Honey Loring is bringing a band to Gallery in the Woods on Friday. The lighting is for immigration justice.

Burrows Specialized Sports is hosting Saturday for racial justice. Berkowitz will lead the candle lighting.

The event concludes Sunday at Centre Congregational Church. The cause is LGBTQ rights.

“Basically, I’m letting each person decide more or less what they would like to do,” Berkowitz said. “Whether they want to bring bagels or potato latkes or song lyrics, whatever they want to do.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2Qchc8o

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Information from: Brattleboro Reformer, http://www.reformer.com/

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