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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" South...one 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

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