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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leo Frank and Today - the Importance of National Knowledge and Support

On Sunday, August 16 at 2 pm, I will join my friend and colleague Rabbi Steve Lebow as we remember Leo Frank.  We do not just remember...we seek exoneration.  You see, in the early morning of August 17, 1915, Leo Frank was brutally lynched for a crime he never committed.  Rather than dwell on all of the ignorance and negativity surrounding this horrific incident, Rabbi Lebow and I prefer and choose to celebrate the "New South, the New Marietta."  This is a Marietta that embraces the other and celebrates our differences.  As a matter of fact, we are all humans and all due the same rights and privileges.  This is our preference - to celebrate and commemorate Leo Frank...and with this, we hope comes exoneration.  It is time to right a wrong and clear his name and reputation.  Although I am 100% in support of this and am extremely excited at the possibilities that lie ahead, I must take a step back and ponder how things would be different if it was today, not 100 years ago.

You see, I click on news article after news article of brutal uses of force today.  In 1915, these shootings or uses of force would have been ignored...or would they have garnered the same kind of national response Leo Frank's case did?  Unfortunately, I do believe that what we are seeing today brings us back 100 years to 1915.  Except, today Leo Frank is a young African American who is accused of crime.  I know, it's a bold statement, but it's true.  You see, Leo Frank was a northern Jewish man who was very much misunderstood in the South.  The problems that industry brought to the South caused many southerners to view Frank as a scapegoat - he represented everything they detested.

Does that sound familiar?  You see, I believe the same ignorance that was rampant in the South 100 years ago is still here today.  If we had twitter 100 years ago, you might see #Jewishlivesmatter.  Well, it's true, ALL LIFE MATTERS.  The African American community has struggled so much in this country and now they are once again fighting against a force that is based in ignorance, or at least partially based in ignorance.

So, there it is.  The same kinds of terror that ran rampant in Georgia in 1915 now runs rampant all over the United States...and this causes so much pain.  There has to be a way we can turn the tide in that we do not continue this trend and find ourselves in another hundred years with a new Leo Frank.  Yes, Black lives matter...White lives matter...Hispanic lives matter...etc.  We all matter.  That's the truth.

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" 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 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
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.