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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another STEP in the Right Direction....

Shalom y'all!

So, I am sure everyone has read about/heard/seen the news regarding the first American Major Sports athlete to "come out" publicly.  My initial reaction to this announcement was:

"I do applaud Jason's courage. However, we must also recognize the bravery and sacrifices of the multitudes of people around the world who find themselves in a very difficult situation every day just because of who they are...let Jason's example lead us to a place where everyone can be who they are in freedom and without being challenged for being themselves."

I was and still am proud of Jason's courage and his decision to publicly announce what he has had to hide for most of his life.  I was left, though, with a feeling of - "What about the others, those who are not professional athletes?  What about those who are not celebrities?  What about those who have suffered and continue to suffer for being who they are?"  

I spent most of yesterday thinking about this blog.  What did I want to say?  Sure - I wanted to show support for Jason Collins and for all of my brothers and sisters in the world who are gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/trans/etc.  Living in Atlanta, Georgia (or just outside of it), I see too often negativity from those who do not feel the way I do.  I also am not one to throw out negativity toward those who disagree with me.  What I do wonder about, what I spend a lot of time thinking about...what will it take for equality to really/truly mean equality for all people?

So there it is.  My intentions are clear (at least to me).  Let me explain.  While I was thinking yesterday, I contacted my good friend Bruce Silverman.  Bruce and I have known each other for a LONG time (about 30 years).  He was a counselor and unit head at Camp Coleman when I was a camper.  He gave me a lot of crap over the years...and we have really grown to be good friends.  So, when he contacts me and asks me to come on his show as "his Rabbi," or "his Padre," of course I do so.  When I have a question about anything related to sports - Bruce is my first line of defense!  

Before I write about our conversation - let me give Bruce his due respect.  You see, Bruce wrote a blog back in February entitled, "Homosexuality in Sports: Who will be the Gay Jackie Robinson?"  Bruce could see the message so clear - someone would come out publicly...and it would be soon.  Here is a link to his blog:

That's right, my good friend the Prophet - Bruce Silverman!

Now, onto the heart of our discussion.  I asked Bruce a lot of questions...focused on one key idea.  Why now?  Why so public?  Why not just wait until the Sports Illustrated article arrived on our doorsteps next week?  And, why, if Jason intended on not making this a "bigger deal," would he be so public?

Bruce's answers were pretty well thought out and made a lot of sense.  If Jason had waited until next week, the article would have been leaked and it would have been a lot messier than just making it public himself.  Apparently, this "secret" has been held by Sports Illustrated for a few weeks - so you have to give credit to them for keeping it secret as long as they did.  Jason Collins - who is that?  Well, he is a journeyman player who has played for a lot of teams and with a lot of players.  Therefore, he is someone well known in the NBA world, but not a superstar.  After all, if a superstar had come out, the news would have been about the SUPERSTAR, rather than the courage of the act of coming out to the public.

So, I guess the question now is: Will this really make a difference?  Yes, there have been many people who have responded in support of Jason: Kobe Bryant, David Stern, Wade Davis (NFL), Grant Hill, President Obama, etc.  This is a great response.  But, will it matter?

Here is part of an article from the LA Times:

"Now that Collins has come out, gay rights activists are hoping athletes will no longer need to choose between truth and a career.

"This is the first domino," said Patrick Burke, a scout with hockey's Philadelphia Flyers and the founder of You Can Play, a group advocating equality for athletes regardless of sexual orientation. "The floodgates are about to open here."

National political leaders, gay rights groups and entertainment icons also spoke in support of Collins.

"Major league sports has remained one of the last bastions of homophobia, but that has slowly been changing,” said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center spokesman Jim Key in an email. "This announcement has been a long time coming. We're incredibly grateful and proud of Jason Collins for being open about his sexual orientation and for the role he'll play in inspiring [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth.”

Aaron McQuade, head of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sports program, called Collins an "exceptionally courageous man" and quipped that the NBA star was also "honestly, a really great defender."

McQuade and others described Collins as a trailblazer -- the only active player in the five major men's professional sports leagues to come out -- and that others would see his example and the support he gets and likely follow in kind. He said he hoped to see a cascade of professional athletes in the five major sports to follow suit."

I share the same hope for the future. I hope that the goodwill being shown to Jason Collins continues for him. I hope that other professional athletes will see the example of Jason Collins as the opportunity to be who they truly are, not just privately, but also publicly.

But, do you know what I hope for more than anything else? I hope that this will lead each of us to recognize that we are all equal, regardless of sex, color, culture, religion or sexual preference.

That is my ultimate message. May we all see the day when equality = equality.

As it says in Leviticus: Ve’ahavta Lere’acha Kamocha (Leviticus 19:18) "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Kein Yehi Ratzon - May this be God's will!

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What are YOU doing these days?

Greetings friends and family!  Or, should I say How y'all doing?

Anyway, it is the end of April and I am wondering what you are doing - not just this week, but this month, next month, this summer.  Well, let me tell you what I am doing:

Friday, April 26 - Friday Night Live @ TKE
Saturday, April 27 - Celebrating with Adam Singer and Evy Eckber
Sunday, April 28 - Cutting my hair (It's Lag Ba'Omer)
Monday, April 29 - Out on the Town with TKE @ Paper Mill Village

Sunday, May 5 - Last Day of Religious School & TKE Annual Meeting
May 10-12 - Camp Coleman Retreat
June/July - Spending some time at Camp Coleman to visit our TKE kids

There is so much going on this week, this month and next.  While your kids are at camp this summer, how about taking a class with Sandy Andron and myself?  Or, maybe you can take a Saturday morning or Wednesday morning Torah Study class.  Here in TKE land, we are always looking for more ways to get out there and stay in touch with our people and meet new ones.  Have an idea?  Shoot me an email, call me or send me a text.

Keep your eyes open for some new and amazing programs that will start to be advertised asap!  We are getting ready for a great year.  If you have friends who are looking for a Jewish home...send them our way!

Until next time, B'Shalom,
Rabbi Erin Boxt

Monday, April 8, 2013

When "going home" becomes harder...

I won't lie.  I was not exactly the easiest kid to love.  I was a talker (and I still am), I was a "know-it-all," and I did not really understand many things I was expected to.  What I can say, for certain, though, is that I was surrounded by an extended family that really truly loved me.  Growing up in Columbia, SC, I was surrounded by aunts and uncles, cousins and so many more.  However, some of my fondest memories were spending time with my Nana at her home on Wheat Street.  She was a very important presence in the lives of myself, my brother and sister, my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  Nana was always seen as the strongest.  After all, she was a teacher, a principal and so much more.  Not only did she graduate from college, she pursued and finished post graduate work.  She was rare - and so, so special.

Now that I am the parent of a wonderful 7 year old, I find myself reflecting often of those memories I had.  It is not so normal these days for a child's grandparents to live in the same town.  Sure, grandparents make many, many visits...but for me, it meant so much to have my Nana a 20 minute drive away.  And, when I was a kid, long distance calls really did cost a lot of money.  So, it was awesome to be able to pick up the phone and call Nana without worrying the call would cost an arm and a leg.  We traveled to Myrtle Beach together many, many times.  Nana even purchased a mobile home in N. Myrtle Beach so all of her family would have a free place to stay if we wanted to go to the beach.  So many memories...

A few weeks ago, Batya reminded me that Nana's birthday was coming up.  Immediately I began to think about how I wanted Carlie to know and have a relationship with my Nana, her BoNana!  So, we began to plan for a visit to Columbia.  Well, ever since my Mom died in 2004, whenever we visit Columbia, we always go to the cemetery to visit my Mom, Carlie's Nana.  It truly is a blessing to live so close to Columbia...Ok, we'd leave Saturday morning, drive straight to visit Nana and then go visit Mom.  We always try to work in at least one meal with friends and family (again a blessing to be so close).  Candy, my mom's youngest sibling, emailed me prior to our visit to remind me that Nana was suffering from Dementia ..and she wanted me to be prepared (and also to prepare Carlie).

We told Carlie that BoNana might ask her the same question a few times...and Carlie was a true champ.  She certainly did not mind giving Nana 8 hugs in the 45 minutes we visited with her!    

"One way to conceive of dementia is as a midbar, a wilderness.  For the Israelites, the forty years of sojourning in the midbar after their liberation from slavery were mysterious and difficult: They wandered with few markers toward an unknown destination; they could not sustain themselves without divine help; they were vulnerable to unsympathetic people they met along the way and to the harsh realities of nature; they could not return to the place of their memories, Egypt; and they could not truly imagine what lay ahead." (Jewish Pastoral Care: A Practical Handbook from Traditional and Contemporary Sources, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, pg. 78)

It was truly a wonderful experience to see Nana and to allow Batya and Carlie to hug her and show her how much she is loved.  It really does not matter to me if Nana remembers today that we visited.  It does not even matter if she forgot right after we left.  What Nana is experiencing is much scarier for her than any of us could possibly imagine.  She joked about the fact that she really does not matter much.  It did not even appear that she was bothered by not remembering.  But, how can we know?  How could I possibly understand what she is experiencing?  It is not for me to understand.  What I (and everyone else that loves her) can do is to visit with her, to love her and make sure that she is comfortable.  

Now, I do not for a moment believe that it is any easier for her family to experience this.  After all, we are also experiencing a difficult time.  It may be confusing for Nana...but it is heart wrenching for those of us that love her.  And, it is important that we remember the good times and celebrate with her - even if she does not remember.  She remembers who we are...and by celebrating with her, she is happy then...and that is what matters.  Of course, each of us deals with the realities of our family members in our own way.  And while there are many "right" ways of experiencing these moments with our loved ones, there is a wrong way: We cannot forget.  We must remember for them...we must be their memories and help them.  And, if they are frustrated or angered because they do not remember, we need to be sensitive and remind them how much we care for them NOW.

I had every intention of writing this blog Saturday night - we visited with Nana Saturday afternoon.  However, I was and am still dealing with my own feelings regarding those experiences with Nana.  What I know for sure is that every time I am able, I will take Carlie to visit that that connection can be remembered.  Pictures, words, memories...

Rabbi Erin Boxt

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An Invocation

Shalom y'all!

I was invited to give the invocation at Cobb County Community Relations Council's "Creating Community Awards Dinner" on Thursday, March 21.  I considered this to be an immense honor for a variety of reasons: 1) I have always tried to live my life by treating all people with the same love and respect I would expect,
2) The most important aspect of my rabbinate is my commitment to social justice,
3) I am still pretty new to the community.

However, there was one more reason.  Henry Hene, one of Temple Kol Emeth's Senior Vice Presidents, was in attendance.  Henry, Chairman of the Board of the Interfaith Habitat for Humanity Coalition in Cobb County, along with many other members of the Board of the Interfaith Habitat for Humanity Coalition, were nominees for one of the Cobb County Community Awards.  Not only have I been blessed to participate with this group, I was even more honored and excited when they were awarded the award for District 2.  Henry, along with everyone else who has been involved with this group, has really gone out of his way to devote his life to seeking understanding and peace among all people.  

Whenever I am asked to give an invocation or a benediction, I think about how I might inspire those who have already inspired me in so many ways.  Truthfully, at least in my opinion, being a rabbi in a community comes with so many honors and blessings (not the least of which is being able to meet and befriend so many people).  For this blog, I decided to include the invocation I gave.  May it inspire you as I have been inspired by the acts and words of so many others!

Invocation – Creating Community Awards Dinner
Cobb County Relations Council
Thursday, March 21, 2013

        Beloved God, tonight, like many nights, is a night to count our blessings.  Tonight we come together to recognize and thank those individuals in our community who have gone above and beyond in promoting a community of peace and friendship.  While we congratulate these individuals and thank them for their good deeds, we are also mindful of those in our community who are still in need, recognizing we still have much to do.
        In a world in which there exists so much hatred, so much pain, we often forget to think about all of the greatness also present in our world.  Here in Cobb County, we are able to celebrate the hard working men and women who work to promote a sense of real inclusion.  It is these positive relationships among our different groups that bring us together this evening.
One of the most energizing facets of our community is the many opportunities present for people to join together, to pray, to learn together, and so many other ways.  It is in those moments that the differences between our groups are blurred.  Those moments of communal togetherness can help to bring clarity and comfort to even the most confused or hurting.  As we pray together this evening, let us take some time to really listen to the sounds of those around us, satisfying our own needs while fulfilling our obligations to God and to our community.

As we break bread together this evening, I ask God to continue to bless us with good health, friendship, love and blessings. 

I end this evening with a verse from Proverbs:
Proverbs 21:21 - He that follows after righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.