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Monday, June 22, 2015

The "New" South?

One of the hardest parts of being a rabbi is knowing that when I write, act, or speak, I am not doing so just as Erin Boxt.  Rather, I am doing so as Rabbi Erin Boxt of Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia. Sometimes, I find this very difficult.  As I mentioned in my sermon this past Friday night, I am an idealist.  I expect people to act and speak to each other in a way that is mutually respectful.  While I try to live by these standards, I expect for others to do the same.  When I hear about injustice - any kind, whether it be religious, racial, gendered, sexuality - I cringe.  I want to reach out to those who have experienced injustice, hold them, cry with them and then work toward change.  I want to effect change - not just because I think it is the right thing to do - because it IS the right thing to do.

Last week, as I sat in my office, thinking about my sermon...I decided to teach about the differences between an "unholy" and a "holy" controversy - as discussed by the Rabbis of the Talmudic period (in Pirkei Avot).  I chose to look at the way people respond to others...AND how people responded to each other when responding.  And, then, I started to read about the shooting in Charleston.  As a South Carolinian, I was mortified.  Why I was mortified might be surprising.  You see, growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, I experienced antisemitism.  For the most part, though, I really cannot remember any black/white racism.  As a matter of fact, when I would tell people (not from SC) that, they would never believe me.

Now, I am not suggesting that racism does not exist in South Carolina.  Of course it does - it exists everywhere.  What I am stating is that it was not "rampant" in my childhood.  In my  neighborhood, there were Blacks, Whites, Hispanics - you name it.  It was almost as if my generation was trying to do everything we could to make a "new" South...one in which we really could get along - all of God's children together.

To be completely  honest, I am really distraught.  I am hurt inside...I hurt for all of those who lost their lives last week (in Charleston and elsewhere) because of hatred...stupid hatred.  I hurt for all of those families who had to wake up with that never ending pain - the hole that now exists in their hearts.  Yes, I pray for all of them...yes, I cry for all of them.  When does it stop?

Last Friday night, as thousands of my brothers and sisters (AMERICANS) were praying for healing in Charleston, I expressed to the TKE congregation a fear I had never had before.  For the first time as a rabbi, I actually was afraid to stand up in front of the congregation.  I was not nervous - I was truly afraid.  Dylann Roof put that fear in me.  His acts of racial hatred caused me to pause.

Then - I read about the family members who had forgiven him for his actions.  I was immediately in awe of their courage, their ability to see good where I thought there was nothing but bad.  The good these people saw was God.  Their courage and strength gave me the courage to stand up and be the leader of TKE. Dylann Roof - you will not win.  You will be defeated...not because you are guilty and will be punished accordingly.  You will be defeated because God will defeat you.  Good will defeat you.

My heart still aches for all of those who have suffered because of any kind of racism.  We shall work together as a world community to do what is right...and defeat what is wrong.

"It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light."  Aristotle Onassis

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Do you hear me...do you care?"

Sitting at my desk, listening to SiriusXM online, and a song plays I have never heard before - "Words" by Missing Persons. I was reading an article by a Jewish reporter who was writing from Gaza. The words of the article did not tell me anything I did not already know. However, the coincidence of the song playing while I was reading stuck with me.

It seems that the "war" in Israel/Palestine is never ending. Each side has their heroes and their villains. Each side has its rally cry and the message it wants the world to understand. However, I wonder if the Israelis and the Palestinians (and I do not mean the governments, but rather the man/woman walking on the street) wonder:

Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care

My lips are moving and the sound's coming out
The words are audible but I have my doubts
That you realize what has been said
You look at me as if you're in a daze
It's like the feeling at the end of the page
when you realize you don't know what you just read


I love Israel - it is my homeland. I do try to get to Israel as often as I can. However, I believe that peace is a possibility - ONLY if the real losers (the man/woman walking on the street) have a voice that is listened to. They would no longer be the losers - rather they would be the winners. And, when and if this becomes a reality, we would see that we all win...not just those who live in that region.

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it's no use talking at all

I might as well go up and talk to a wall
'cause all the words are having no effect at all
It's a sorry state, I say to myself

Something has to happen to change the direction
What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
It's a funny thing, am I all alone


Walls - we speak of walls as if we understand their purpose. Walls are not just put up to block out or keep inside. Walls are put up to protect...those inside and those outside. When we shut out those who truly desire change...who truly want to "save the human race," we all lose. Let us be winners - let's tear down the metaphysical walls...embrace the "other," and then eventually we will have no need for the physical walls.

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it's no use talking at all

Do you hear me
Do you care
Do you hear me
Do you care

Let me get by
Over your dead body
Hope to see you soon
When will I know
Doors three feet wide with no locks open
Walking always backwards in the faces of strangers
Time could be my friend
But it's less than nowhere now
less than nowhere now
less than nowhere now
now
ow ow ow...


Time - it is our friend...but will we run out? Will there come a time when either time completely stops, or, better yet, will there come a time when the people will say "enough is enough?" Will the people overthrow those in power? Will they become the leaders we need...or will they become just like their predecessors? When will the cycle end? Will we be able to reach out, embrace and hold onto those that are different? I believe the answer is yes...this is why I do the work I do.

Pursue it further and another thing you'll find
Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
I think I'll dye my hair blue

Media overload bombarding you with action
It's getting near impossible to cause distraction
Someone answer me before I pull out the plug

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it's no use talking at all

What are words for when no one listens anymore
What are words for when no one listens
What are words for when no one listens it's no use talking at all...


Yes, the media overloads and bombards us with what we should see and what we need not to see. While this may seem a contradiction - it is true. Too many depend on the media for the "stuff" they need to know...or what they think they need to know. NO - we must reach out and embrace those we do not understand and listen. NO - we are not required to agree with everything we hear. YES - we are required to support people and do what it takes to make sure others feel safe being who they are...just as we want for ourselves.

Is this easy? NO. Is this possible? YES. Does this require some major figure? NO. Does this require everyone of us to make it happen? YES.

Yes - we will...because we have no other choice.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Praying for Marriage Equality

On Sunday, April 26, I joined many other faith leaders at Unity North Church in Marietta, Georgia to hold a prayer vigil in support of Marriage Equality. This issue – the equality of all couples – is central to my belief system as a Jew and as a Rabbi.  As a member of the Cobb Interfaith Spiritual Leaders, I wanted to stand by my colleagues and support those in our community who are treated differently, just because they are “different.”  As a Jew, I understand what it means to be considered the “other.”  It is because of this that I choose to stand up and fight for any group who finds themselves on the “outside looking in.” 

The United States Supreme Court, on April 28, heard hours of arguments from both sides (those in favor and those against marriage equality).  The decision that stands before them now is one that will greatly affect thousands (if not millions) of Americans.  Imagine being told that you cannot make a medical decision regarding your child because the state you live in does not recognize your rights as the parent of that child.  Imagine being told that you will not be able to be present at the bedside of your loved one while they are sick because you are not legally considered family.  There are many cases in the United States where this kind of scenario occurs.  And, it is totally wrong. 

As a rabbi, I have always fought for the rights and equality of all.  I have read many Op-Eds and arguments of those who disagree with me.  It seems the argument against Marriage Equality for LGBTQI community comes down to two main points: 1) The Bible calls it an “abomination,” and 2) the perception of marriage has been the way it is for so long that it would be unwise to rush into a decision that changes it.  In response to what the Bible says, I can only reply there are many instances in the Bible in which I would disagree with the statement being made.  For example, should I take an unruly child outside of town and allow the Elders of my community stone him to death?  Of course, this is only one example…the Bible is a living document which means we have a responsibility to dialogue with it and not find ourselves “stuck in ancient history.”  As far as the second point is concerned – the perception of marriage being the way it is for so many years.  Well, times change…and with time changing, so should the perception of equality under the Law.  Too many of my friends and colleagues find themselves in ridiculously difficult situations because of this “perception” of marriage.


I do not purport to know all of the answers, and I am certainly willing to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with me.  However, when it comes to the reality (or lack thereof) of equality, there can be no misinterpretation.  Marriage equality means all couples should have the right be married and share the same benefits as everyone else.  For me, this is not negotiable.  I only hope the Supreme Court makes the right decision and makes Marriage Equality truly Equal under the Law.