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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Letter to the Editor

Thank you so much to Janice Weinman and Hadassah - not only for the amazing work they do, but also with the formulating of this letter to the Editor:


Dear Editor,

On November 14th - in response to an escalation of rocket attacks from Gaza - the Israeli Defense Forces initiated Operation Pillar of Defense. Since the launch, and the killing of Hamas Commander and Chief-of-Staff Ahmed Jabari, Hamas has launched both a military and public relations campaign to destabilize and delegitimize the State of Israel.

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, one of many organizations, has worked tirelessly over 100 years to ensure the delivery of quality health and education services to the people of Israel. In doing so they have created a bridge to peace between all communities of different origins and backgrounds.  

It is our hope - all of us in the Jewish community - for the truth on both sides to be presented accurately and not distorted.  We pray for and hope for a time of peace when all of our brothers and sisters of all religions will get along peacefully, ensuring all of our children the right to a life of safety and freedom.

It is essential that the world community understand the facts on the ground.

Prior to Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel used enormous restraint amidst a barrage of attacks.
However, with the attacks intensifying, it became necessary to address Hamas’ terror campaign and reestablish greater security for the Israeli people.

4.5 Million Israelis, over half of the Israeli population, is under attack.
2,500 rockets have been launched from Gaza since Operation Cast Lead in 2009.
Over 1,000 rockets have been launched this year.
360 rockets have been launched in the last 48 hours.
2 adult fatalities have occurred and 150 have been wounded, including two infants in serious condition since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Hamas uses civilian shields, including children.

The United States government has committed its support for Israel’s right for self defense.We look to the world community for its understanding and its support of peace for the people of Israel.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Erin Boxt
Temple Kol Emeth
Marietta, GA 30062

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How Do We Respond?

This morning, I received an email from a congregant expressing anger and frustration.  He had just heard CBS News explain that the "situation in Israel and Gaza began yesterday with the killing of a high ranking Hamas leader."  His frustration is shared by me and many, many others.  What was really behind his anger was a request for what to do next.  How should he respond?  Well, I recommend writing letters, emails, tweeting on Twitter, sending Facebook messages/links.  We need to respond in as many ways as is possible - as long as we are also being fair in our responses.  When we feel that others are being inappropriately unfair, we need to take a step back, breathe, and make sure our responses are fair and clear.

I was just on a conference call with the Atlanta Israeli Consul General.  Here are some FACTS:

1) Since 2009, 2500 rockets have been fired on the South of Israel (from Gaza).

2) In 2012 alone, 750 rockets have been fired on the South of Israel (from Gaza).

3) In the last 24 hours, 250 rockets have been fired on the South of Israel AND Metro Tel Aviv (from Gaza).

These are facts, not opinions.  If we, as Americans (Jews and anyone of any faith) could imagine what would happen if the United States was bombarded with this kind of rocket barrage, could we also imagine what our response would be?  Would we be encouraged by World Leaders to just sit back and do nothing?  Of course not...we would act.  Israel has been under fire for quite some time...and now she is responding - with the support of our U.S. Leaders, as it should be.

If you feel the journalists are not presenting a fair assessment of what is going on - write down specific times/dates of the unfair reporting.  Write letters, send emails - outlining exactly when it occurred.  Follow the news from a variety of sources (online and offline).  NEVER depend on one source - because all of the news sources out there carry a bias.

Friends, may each of us continue to hope and pray for a day when all civilians (Israeli and neighbors) will live in a time of peace.  Let us encourage our government leaders to support ALL innocent civilians.  Remember, a human being is a human being - and each of us has the right to live in an environment which is safe and in which we may live our lives as we choose.

Pay attention - look, observe and have patience...all of us need this.

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"I, Israel: Insights, Experiences, and Lessons Learned from One Student's Year Abroad"

I have been sitting at my desk for the past few hours - attempting to clear out some of the huge pile of work - and thinking about how to respond to what I have been following in the news.  As usual, I find myself glued to a variety of news sources: Haaretz.com, Jpost.com, CNN.com, Ynet News, etc.  No matter who you speak with; no matter who you ask; no matter which news source you seek out for answers.  Every person, no matter where they are from, has an opinion.  Israel - the country, the people, the land - is one of the most debated topics.  Often times, the discussion on Israel can be divisive.  Why?  That is meant to be rhetorical.  I do understand the sides, the arguments.  Everyone is right and everyone is wrong.  I often write blogs about issues that I believe to be important to everyone and which should bring people together.  We all have a responsibility to help others.  I realize that this blog could very well be seen as picking a side.  I will try my best to not do so.  However, as a rabbi, I cannot divorce myself from my connection and support of Israel.  I can, however, see that on each side (however you classify these sides) there are innocent civilians trying to make their lives better.  Let us all NOT forget that.

In early July, I had the great privilege of meeting a very nice and well educated young man, Ariel Doestareh.  As an Atlanta raised Jewish young man, he experienced quite an interesting life.  However, upon graduation from high school, he sought to explore himself, Jewishly, spiritually, etc.  So, he embarked on a year long study program at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem.  The title of this blog - his book - really explains the focus of his book.  It is very well written and in it, Ariel attempts (and succeeds) at bringing our sacred Jewish texts to us through his very real experiences in Israel.  No matter what your connection to Israel is...this is a great book for all Jews.  I highly recommend it.  It is a page turner and one that is very interesting.  Written with a focus on the Parashat HaShavuah (Torah portion of the week), Ariel brilliantly weaves the Biblical stories into his own contemporary experiences.

The truest wisdom in his book - "It's one student's humble quest to find inspiration in the everyday scenes, residents and lessons of one country."  Israel is a country of many cultures, religions, experiences, etc.  It is impossible to completely capture the wonder of Israel in one book - but Ariel comes close!  Kol Ha Kavod!

One more point - It is within each of us to make a difference in the world.  Each of us can recognize and celebrate the beauty and wonder of everyone else we come in contact with.  All we need to do is open our eyes and see it.  Temple Kol Emeth proudly supports and encourages the welcoming of all people.  As a matter of fact, on Thursday, November 15 @ 7 pm, we will be hosting the 9th annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving service.  We will be welcoming clergy from a variety of churches, mosques, and temples to help lead us in prayer.  We will also experience the wonder and beauty of a combined choir.  If you are unable to join us, please check out our live stream: http://tinyurl.com/ecumenicalstream.

My dear friends - let us approach quickly the day when we all are able to see the beauty and how much we have in common.  Our commonalities completely outweigh our differences.

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Monday, November 5, 2012

This has to STOP!!!

To Whom it May Concern (which really is EVERYONE!):

My name is Rabbi Erin C. Boxt.  I am one of the rabbis at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, Georgia.  I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, attended the University of Georgia and then was ordained a rabbi by Rabbi David Ellenson of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  Having been raised in the south, my values and ethical ideals have been shaped by so many types of people from different faiths, cultures, etc.  However, there is one issue that I believe should be addressed - and SHOULD be important to everyone: Human Trafficking.

Yesterday, Sunday, November 4th, I attended a Human Trafficking Summit at The Temple in downtown Atlanta.  I was extremely satisfied to see so many people present.  However, I was also mortified that there were empty chairs.  Truth is - no one building should have been able to house us.  This is an issue that is of utmost importance and needs to be talked about - no matter how uncomfortable it is to talk about.  Here are some harrowing statistics: Worldwide 600,000 - 800,000 victims each year; 14,500 in the USA alone; 240 under-aged children EACH HOUR in Georgia.  These numbers represent the number of people who are trafficked - for sex and other purposes each hour/year.

Granted: not all of those trafficked are for sexual purposes.  Some are just modern day "slaves."  Here is another fact - the Hebrew word eved meaning slave is found in the Bible.  However, the word is used to describe someone who works off a debt or is responsible for paying back a debt after breaking a law.  He is not the property of the person he is working for.  And, in many cases, the person is to provide housing and food for the eved.  Now, if we look at the way we use the word slave today, it has a totally different connotation.  One is sold into slavery...becomes the property of his/her owner...and is often tied to that person for their lives (or until they are no longer of any use and are often times murdered).

You know what?  It really does NOT matter.  Human trafficking is a problem whether it is for work purposes or for sexual purposes.  A research study conducted by the "Juvenile Justice Fund" of Atlanta produced these research highlights:

1) 7200 men account for 8700 paid sex acts with adolescent females each month in Georgia (about 300 each day)
2) 42% of these "Johns" are found in the north metro Atlanta area (outside I-285)
3) 28000 men pay for sex with adolescent females each year in Georgia.  Nearly 10,000 of these men purchase sex with adolescent females multiple times per year.

Many of these victims are runaways who see no hope in their future.  They are often looking for a way to "better their lives," only to find themselves caught in a trap of lies, despair and ultimately death.  The average age of a girl lured into the sex trade in the United States is 13.  This life of prostitution usually is a death sentence as the average lifespan of a girl exploited in this say is only 7 years.  So...do you find yourself disgusted?  Are you trying to figure out what to do?  Is your stomach turning inside and out?  Good...read on for ways to get involved.

#1 - Contact your state reps and senators.  Tell them how this is important to you.  After all, the more of us that are affected, the more our leaders will focus on this issue.

#2 - Contact any number of organizations to volunteer: Out of Darkness: www.outofdarkness.org, the Juvenile Justice Fund: www.afuturenotapast.org, Youth Spark www.youth-spark.org, Tapestri www.tapestri.org, Open Jewish Project www.trafficking.openjewishproject.com

#3 - Talk, learn, teach, educate, look.  Get involved.

So, really, we have two major issues/problems/challenges here in Georgia (as well as in the United States and in the world): 1) Human trafficking in general and 2) more specifically, the sex trafficking of adolescents. Both of these problems are horrific and disgusting.  I urge every one of us to get as involved as we are able.  This is a problem that we can only get rid of by talking, learning and getting involved.

I urge ALL of our elected officials to take these challenges seriously and help to truthfully make an end to this disgusting and downright awful behavior.

Rabbi Erin Boxt