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Thursday, August 25, 2011

R + A + B + B +....

There you have it. Four years of rabbinical school completed, four letters earned (7 if you include my MHL - Masters in Hebrew Letters), and one thesis and a couple of classes left to go. Reality is beginning to set in and it is kind of overwhelming. This semester - my last full academic semester - looks like this:

Monday - 9:20 - 10:35 - Senior Seminar (where we learn all of the practical things we have not yet learned about being a rabbi and clergy)

Tuesday - 9:20 - 10:35 - Adult Education class

Wednesday - 9:20 - 10:35 - Senior Seminar
11:35 - 12:50 - Intro to Guitar

Thursday - 9:20 - 10:35 - Adult Education class

Of course, I am also writing my thesis and driving to The Temple in Louisville on Wednesdays and Sundays for teaching/internship responsibilities. This year will fly by, I am sure. I have already begun to look through various Jewish job websites, looking to see what is out there. I believe that as long as I keep my options fairly open, I should be able to find a job that will make me happy while maintaining Shalom Bayit - Peace in my home!

As the year goes along, with every blog, I would like to share one memory I have had that has shaped who I am today. I would like to turn back the hands of time to my first night as a rabbinic student - in June, 2008. One of my classmates had flown with Batya, Carlie and me from Atlanta to Tel Aviv. We immediately took a cab to our apartment in Jerusalem. My classmate was staying with us for a week while he found his own apartment. Batya and I put Carlie to bed as best we could - she was pretty exhausted.

My classmate and I decided to roam around a bit and I was going to try to see what I could remember from my previous visit to Israel - 7 years prior. Well, as could be expected I did not remember much, and we were lost almost immediately. We did see some pretty interesting things and I did find a couple of shops that I had frequented in Israel 7 years before. I remember thinking, "This year is going to be full of challenges, great memories, and tremendous learning." I could not have been more right. Although it was only one year, I learned more about myself and my family than I could have if we had stayed in the States for that year. Looking back and reading through my old blog posts reminds me how much I learned and how those memories really helped to shape who I am today.

The last 4 + years at HUC have not always been full of sunshine, but I have learned so much and am so grateful to HUC and those who have come into my life for helping me get to today. Of course, the two most important people in this group are Batya and Carlie - my girls, my lights. Without them and their support, who knows where I would be today!

Until next time,

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer in Louisville

Hello family and friends! What a long time it has been since I blogged. I know, no apologies. Well, let me begin by saying that this summer has brought so many wonderful experiences and opportunities for growth. It may be hard to believe, especially after my work last summer in Clinical Pastoral Education, but I believe I have grown the most this summer as a rabbinic intern at The Temple in Louisville than any summer before! I have had the tremendous opportunity to work with 3 amazing rabbis and a wonderful support and administrative staff. I have helped with life cycle events, taught adult education classes and Torah study, tutored Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, stayed in the homes of congregants and really had the chance to get to know this fantastic Jewish community. One of the aspects of the internship that I am the most proud of was my work with the local rabbis and Lisa Rothstein - the new director of the High School of Jewish Studies. This is a program that targets all Jewish high school students in Louisville. While there are core classes for each grade level, the students are also allowed to choose electives - the opportunity to learn about a variety of Jewish subjects including Jews in sports, the Holocaust, Jewish issues, etc. I am looking forward to seeing just how successful this program will be.

Well, as this summer is ending, that means that my final year in seminary is beginning. It is hard to believe how quickly the last four years flew by. I have truly enjoyed every day at HUC-JIR, and I am looking forward to all of the new experiences and knowledge I will gain in my 5th and final year of study. Of course, I will never really be finished with my studies, but at least in a year or so, I will finally be able to work full time doing what I love to do! As the year rolls along, I will be working on my thesis, learning guitar and trying to figure out a way to find myself in the best job placement for my family! It will be a very fast year, I am sure, and I hope to be able to enjoy it as it happens.

My intention (and I know I have said this before) is to write at least twice a month in this blog over the next 10 months or so. I hope to share with all of you not only the experiences of this year, but I also hope to share some reflections on how my life has changed and how I have changed over the past 4 + years. I would be lying if I said that every day during the past 4 years has been full of rainbows! However, it is true that even during the not so great days, I would still be able to return home to the embrace of my loving wife and loving daughter. I thank God every day for the ability to continue seeking my life's dream while also being able to share it with the most important people in my life!

Until next time...

Friday, August 5, 2011

A request for help for AJWS and Tostan

Greetings Friends and Family,

I am writing this email to you after one of the most amazing and eye opening experiences in my life. I had the opportunity to spend 11 days in Senegal, in West Africa, working with an organization named Tostan. Tostan is one of many West African non-government organizations that the American Jewish World Service supports, financially and in many other ways. Tostan works with villages and communities in West Africa to educate and bring about positive change. To learn more about Tostan, please visit their website: . Tostan really does so much with these villages, including helping to end Female Genital Cutting and Young Marriages.

While in Senegal, we visited a village - Keur Douda Cisse - and helped them to build a school and begin construction on a garden. We spent a week getting to know the members of the village, spending time with them in their homes and playing with the children. While it was a lot of fun, these experiences were also meant to open my eyes to the lives and situations of those living in the Global South - the developing world. There are so many stories to tell, and I really hope to be able to share them with as many of my friends and family as possible.

There is a lot of possibility in these communities and it is vital that we begin to learn about the history of these countries and how we can, as one Globe, come together to eradicate poverty and everything else that negates the basic human rights that everyone in our world should be able to enjoy.

It is so important that we support AJWS and these other organizations. It does NOT matter how much one is able to donate...every dollar helps and every dollar counts. Please feel free to check out the AJWS website: for more information. And, please join me in supporting the programs of AJWS.

Thank you in advance for your consideration,
Erin Boxt

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My Experiences in Senegal!

One of the first text messages I received when I arrived back in the United States asked me “how was your trip to Senegal?” Rather than respond over text, I called my friend and suggested we go out for coffee and talk about it. The truth is that although I am supposed to come up with an “elevator response” to that question, I am pretty sure that it would be too difficult for me right now. I have so many thoughts and feelings that I am constantly thinking about – and so many reflections to work through. Yes, the trip to Senegal was an amazing, eye opening and in many ways a spiritual experience. With a group of 17 other rabbinical students and Jewish professionals, I was able spend about four to five hours a day for a little over a week in a small village outside of Thies, Senegal: Keur Douda Cisse. When we arrived on the first day, we were welcomed with song, dance and one of the warmest welcomes I have ever experienced. Any feelings of reluctance I had were immediately swept away with the overwhelming feeling of “home.” After this wonderful welcoming ceremony, we were all given names. From that point on, I became Assan Torrei. I even began introducing myself as such – and the members of the village only knew me as Assan Torrei…something that just felt natural.

In the afternoons, we studied many texts, including Talmudic and Midrashic texts. We spent quite a lot of time learning about how the Global North (formerly the 1st World developed countries) and the Global South (formerly the 3rd World developing countries) were alike and different. We studied Jewish texts that related to the Jewish responsibility to other Jews and non-Jews. I learned so much about the roots and causes of poverty and I really began to think about the responsibilities that each of us have to these impoverished nations. What really began to stick out in my mind (and stays with me even today) were the images and stereotypes I brought with me to Senegal, and how different they were from many of the images I experienced and tried to capture with my camera. I am totally aware that it would be impossible for me to be able to explain everything I experienced and saw…but I hope to have conversations with people that will at least give me the opportunity to learn and teach…and grow with my community.

On the last day of our trip, we went to Goree Island, one of the last stops of the slave trade in Africa. When slaves left Goree Island, they boarded the ships that brought them to those countries that were involved in the 500 + years of the slave trade. Many thoughts rushed through my head as we explored the museum and the slave house. What responsibilities do those of us that live in the Global North have to the Developing World? What have we done to make the matters of life worse for these countries? Should we ask them how we can help or just assume that we know the answers? Clearly, I left Goree Island more confused than I was when I went…and I think that it is important for me to recognize and admit this. Now, I must figure out how I can use these thoughts and images to teach and learn.

American Jewish World Service is an amazing organization that works with grass roots organizations like Tostan in West Africa to bring change to these communities. This change comes from these communities…they decide for themselves what their needs are. Please check out and to learn more about the amazing programs that are so very successful in the Global South.