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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Camp Coleman Meditation

The following meditation was written by Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz.  If you love Camp Coleman or any other camp for that matter, you will certainly appreciate her words!!!


THROUGHOUT MY LIFE, WHENEVER I’VE BEEN ASKED
TO RETREAT IN MY MIND TO A PLACE OF SAFETY,
COMFORT AND BEAUTY,
THE PLACE I HAVE GONE IS CAMP COLEMAN,
IT’S ACTUALLY THE HILLMAN CHAPEL.

THIS IS TRULY A SACRED PLACE FOR ME,
AS I KNOW IT IS FOR SO MANY OF YOU.

SO THIS MORNING, AS WE ENTER A QUIET MOMENT IN OUR SERVICE,
I WANT TO TAKE YOU TO A PLACE WITH MY WORDS AND YOUR MIND.

I INVITE YOU TO SIT COMFORTABLY,
CLOSE YOUR EYES IF YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT,
TAKE A DEEP BREATH IN AND DEEP BREATH OUT,
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT,
PAYING ATTENTION TO THE RHYTHM OF YOUR BREATH. 

SEE IF YOU CAN BRING INTO YOUR MIND’S EYE SHABBAT AT CAMP COLEMAN WHEN YOU FIRST CAME ALL THOSE YEARS AGO.

YOU SEE WHITE ALL AROUND YOU AS YOU WALK OUT OF THE DINING HALL FOR SHABBAT TEFILA.

YOU FEEL FULL AND HAPPY AS YOU MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE HILLMAN CHAPEL, SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS.

YOU WALK UP THE SLIGHT HILL, LEADING TO THE CHAPEL
AND SIT DOWN ON THE HARD, COOL BENCH.

YOU ARE IMMEDIATELY DRAWN IN BY THE VOICES ALL AROUND YOU,
SINGING IN SHABBAT.

YOU LOOK AROUND YOU AND SEE THE SUNSET REFLECTING OFF THE LAKE, THE SMILES OF YOUR FRIENDS’ FACES
THE BEAUTY OF THE MOUNTAINS AND HILLS
THE RED CLAY ON YOUR SHOES, WHICH WILL NEVER BE WHITE AGAIN.

YOU HEAR THE CRUNCH OF GRAVEL UNDER FEET,
THE TINKLING OF LAUGHTER,
THE HUSH OF WHISPERS,
AND THE BUZZING OF BEES.

YOU FEEL THE HARDNESS OF THE BENCH UNDER YOU,
THE BREEZE ON YOUR SKIN,
THE TOUCH OF THE BODY NEXT TO YOU AS YOU SWAY TO THE MUSIC,
AND THE FEELING OF FREEDOM AND RELEASE.

YOU SMELL THE TREES, DIRT AND CLAY,
THE FRESHNESS OF EVERYONE AROUND YOU WHO HAS CLEANED UP
FOR THIS SACRED DAY,
AND THE FAINT SWEETNESS OF APPLE BROWN BETTY
STILL LINGERING IN THE AIR.

YOU TASTE THE TASTE OF CHILDHOOD,
OF LOVE, OF SHALOM – WHOLENESS AND PEACE.

OPEN TO THE WONDER OF THIS MOMENT!
REMEMBER THAT CHILD,
THAT PURE SOUL,
REMEMBER YOUR CARES, YOUR WORRIES, YOUR HOPES AND YOUR DREAMS. 

REMEMBER HOW THIS PLACE MADE YOU COME ALIVE
IN WAYS THAT WERE BRAND NEW –
-         THAT MADE YOU SPARKLE,
-         THAT HELPED TO CENTER AND GUIDE YOU.

NOW OPEN YOUR EYES AND LOOK ALL AROUND YOU.
SEE THE TREEES,
SMELL THE AIR,
FEEL SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS AND LOVE
AND KNOW THAT A PART OF YOU HAS NEVER LEFT.

IT HAS BEEN HERE ALL ALONG,
INSIDE OF YOU,
THAT PLACE OF SAFETY, LOVE, FULLNESS AND JOY.
THAT PLACE WE CALL CAMP COLEMAN.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Drum roll please....Miss Emily Celebrates ROCKS!

Shalom Y'all!

I have been kevelling to anyone and everyone that will listen about the amazing and wonderful congregants of TKE.  But, it is so much more than that.  We have the best volunteer staff, the most amazing Board, incredible teachers and educators, talent, talent, talent!  And, our family is devoted to our success, devoted to each other.  If the old adage "a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link" is true, than Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia is a pretty strong chain!

I must share with you a very personal experience from the Camp Coleman 50th Anniversary/Reunion.  It is no secret that one of the reasons Batya and I are delighted to be back in Atlanta is that we will be able to send Carlie to Camp Coleman.  Camp Coleman has been a part of my family since 1985 - 27 years!  It was so amazing spending time and celebrating with so many more amazing people.  There are, however, two very special people I want to send a very special shout out to: Malka Altman (the Mom of Camp Coleman) and Emily Aronoff Teck (my daughter's new favorite person!).

Malka Altman has been and continues to be a very special and important person in my life.  Seeing her and spending time with her this past weekend just reconfirmed what I have always known: I love Malka Altman...and I am so delighted that Carlie was able to meet her (and hopefully spend more time with her in the future).  L'dor V'dor as we say - from generation to generation.  As Malka was Mom, friend, supporter, etc. to me for the last 27 years, I look forward to Carlie being able to say the same thing.  Passing Camp Coleman on to Carlie is so special and when I think about the memories she will make, I am just thrilled.

Emily Aronoff Teck - I remember her from when she was a 10 year old little girl running around Camp Coleman.  Now, not only am I so blessed to be the rabbi at her home congregation, I get to spend time with her watching her do what she does best - make kids smile, sing, and just have fun.  If you haven't seen the production and performance of the song she helped our kids write this past weekend at Camp Coleman, please click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPvScAkkMRA.  Let me tell you - Emily is amazing.  To see my daughter smile and tell me that she loves Miss Emily...tears came to my eyes.  With so many wonderful Jewish song leaders out there, it may be hard sometimes to decide which one to bring to your community.  I have worked with and sang with many, many of the Jewish rockers out there.  Miss Emily is new, exciting and just a fantastic influence on our kids.

Check out her website: www.missemilycelebrates.com.  You will not regret it - and I promise you that you will have fun!

As we continue this time of reflection in the month of Elul, as we approach the High Holy Days, let us express our appreciation and gratitude to all of those in our lives that have had special significance.  Today, I am thankful for: Malka Altman, all of the many wonderful rabbis that have helped make Camp Coleman a spiritual and religious place for myself and thousands upon thousands of Jewish kids (and adults), Miss Emily, Allan Solomon, David Israel, Andy Hodes, Adam Tabachnikoff, Susan Linder, Sandy Sherman, Grace Sherman, Fred and Mara Menachem, Theron Thomas, Bobby Harris, Momma and Poppa Dref, Joui Hessel, Bruce Silverman, Ari and Susan Halpern, Sunny Goldin Freeman, Jo Ellen Unger, Steve Zielonka, Mike Russo, Mark and Saul Kaiserman, Susie Silverman Fages, Jason Boxt, and so many, many others!

Rabbi Boxt

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stop posting on FB already!

Shalom friends!

I love checking out the news from a variety of sources.  One of my favorites (CNN.com) often has some pretty interesting news items.  Of course, as with any other news source, I often find myself wondering, "Did they really print that?"  This afternoon, as I was looking around for interesting and unusual stories, I came across the following headline: "Restaurant offers a 5% discount to eat without your phone."  The first thought that came to mind was a conversation that I have often found myself having with my wife when we are out.  Do we leave our phone in the car?  Or, do we spend the entire evening checking scores, looking at our friends' posts on Facebook, or reading through our email?

I was sure that we were not the only ones who had this conversation (sometimes even a heated discussion!). I look around in stores, restaurants, and even in movie theaters and see people texting away or playing on Facebook.  I have a very hard time using my phone for Facebook because I get easily annoyed at the speed (I know, at least I am able to connect, right?) or the fact that my eyes don't see as well as they used to.  I prefer to use my IPAD or computer for Facebook.  It is much easier to see and "play" on.  But, really, who has time to play?

So, I decided to read this article...and I highly recommend it: http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/16/technology/restaurant-cell-phone-discount/index.html.  The articles reports of a restaurant in California that actually gives customers a 5% discount on their bill if they check their cellphones at the door.  Really?  Have we gotten to that point?  Do we need to be bribed to put our phones down and actually have a conversation with the people we are dining with?  What about conversation that has become so mundane that we must always be on our phones?  As the father of a 6 year old who seems to always have to be playing with or working on some sort of technology, I ask the question - Do you remember the days before computers, IPODs, Androids, IPADs, DSIs, etc?  I do...and I wonder how we made it this far?

The truth is that technology has opened up many, many doors for us in the world.  We are able to really connect on a global level in so many ways.  No longer must we wait weeks for communication from our loved ones who have moved away.  With a click, we are connected.  You know what?  Technology has also opened our eyes to the many, many, many challenges present in our world.  We can see first hand now the problems that exist not only in our neighborhoods, but also in neighboring states, countries...and even countries that are thousands of miles away.  When I traveled with the American Jewish World Service to Senegal in the summer of 2011, I remember being asked to turn off my cell phone.  My first thought scared me - how will I be able to communicate with my family?

As a world, we survived for a long time without technology.  Now that technology is advancing at a rapid, rapid rate, we find ourselves wondering how we could continue without it?  I would challenge people to try it.  Turn off your phone, power down your other gadgets and spend some time with the ones you love - without technology.  You know what?  Shabbat begins in a few hours...why not try now?  This is not an exercise in "how we observe Shabbat."  Rather, it is an exercise in "how we can survive without gadgets."  Maybe we can use this gadget-free time to think about how we can become a global society that takes care of each other.  Maybe we can use this time to learn, discuss and get to know each other on a higher level.  Who knows - maybe we will realize we simply cannot survive without our technology.

Since we are not able to just jump into a time machine and go back to the "pre-technology" good ole days...we will not know until we try it.  Go ahead...turn it off....

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Erin Boxt

Monday, August 6, 2012

Searching for God in the darkest places...

Shalom y'all, Attending funerals is not something anyone really enjoys. This is certainly true for me as well. However, an unfortunate truth to being clergy is that I will attend, officiate and co-officiate at many funerals in my life. I have heard that it never gets easier...certainly not for the families of the deceased, no matter how many of their dear ones they have experienced the loss of. So, where is God during these moments in our lives? In our darkest, most desperate moments, where do we find God? Or, more importantly, are we even interested in seeking God? For many, anger and frustration directed at God seems easiest. After all, God is not able to respond and explain to us the why and why not.

A shooting in Colorado, a shooting in Wisconsin...death in Bulgaria, Africa and in so many more places. Where is God? What is going on? Haven't we learned anything from our history? Are we doomed to constantly repeat history, especially our mistakes? When will we learn? These are all very appropriate questions to ask. After all, how do we learn if we do not ask the hard questions? Truth....we need to do MORE than ask questions.

We need to teach love, not hatred. We need to teach understanding and compassion instead of the opposite. What I find interesting is that with all of the anger, hatred and bloodshed present in the world, there are also MANY people who preach understanding and love. Facebook, Twitter, you name it..it is all out there. Organizations exist that have as their number one goal to help those who are in need worldwide. How many of us look outside of our local communities to see those around us who are in need? It is ok to be nervous and afraid. Heck, if it was easy we would all do it, right? Truth...the more difficult it is to get out there and speak to those who are different for us, the more rewarding it will be once we make those connections. Really, it is true....I promise.

Let us stop trying to outdo each other. Let us spend more time focusing on how we are alike and seek to spread understanding of our differences. Friends, it is our responsibility to ensure we teach,
understand, love and accept. After all, the other option will certainly lead us to the darkest hour for
our world...and then who will be left to search for God?

Let me end with a prayer:

Each of us possesses the power to do good. 
Each of us possesses the power to do evil. 
May God give us patience and the ability to choose good. 
May each of us take what God has given us and do good. 

Heavenly Father, show us the wisdom and guidance,
Return to us and help us return to you. 
May we live in a time of peace and prosperity. 
May EVERY nation seek to learn and to teach: 
Peace, Love, Understanding... 

Rabbi Boxt