It has been a few months since I wrote last. Life has brought to the Boxt family quite a few changes. On July 1, we moved to Ocala, Florida. I am now the rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom. Every day I come into the office, and I am reminded of how amazing life is. You see, Temple Beth Shalom shares a building with First Congregational United Church of Christ. We have two separate sanctuaries, but we share an office, classrooms, and a social hall. Each day we find new ways we can learn about and from each other. This is truly a model for what can happen when people choose to work together, rather than against each other.
Let me fast forward a bit - Today, I heard a song for the first time in a long time. I watched the video for "We are the World," by USA for Africa. This song came out when I was quite young - 1985 - I was nine years old! When I heard it today (and, btw, I listened to it repeatedly), I was brought to tears. My first thought - what they sang about 37 years ago applies to us today. "Love is all we need..." Every decision we make every day has a very wide impact - worldwide. It DOES matter how we treat others - even those with which we may fundamentally disagree.
In my life, I have lived in a number of states that do not have the reputation (at least not today) for being the most welcoming to "different" kinds of people. Most of my life has been in these states. There is work - so much work - to do...and I want to be a part of the solution. Sometimes, I just feel so tired...so exhausted. I look at what is front and center - the news about this politician or this organization...and then the heat! Disneyland Paris is cutting holes in water hoses to help their patrons stay cool...you read that right. That was a headline I read today.
Then, I turn back to YouTube...and I listen. "We are the ones to make a brighter day...there's a choice we're making..." How many of us can look in the mirror and celebrate the choices we are making? Do we realize it is not just about us? Tears come streaming down my cheeks...every parent wants their children to live in a better world they did. Our legacy is what we leave behind - how can we do this if we are so concerned with what is "in it for us?" This weekend I am going to URJ Camp Coleman to spend 2 weeks on faculty.
This is a blessing I do not take lightly. I get to be with the future - I know it is cliché, but it is true. While at camp I truly try to listen and learn - just as much as I talk and teach. These campers are the future...they will one day sit where I am sitting. Will they sit at their computers and wonder why we are still singing the same songs...dwelling on the same problems/challenges. The choices that they make will make a difference and actually change the world for the better.
You want inspiration - look at your children, your grandchildren, the children in your neighborhood...they should make us want to do better; to be better.
Just as I am about to lay my head on the pillow to go to sleep...
My cellphone lights up. A notification from Facebook;
Do I get up and read it, or just wait until the morning?
We all know how this goes: I roll over, pick up my phone and click on Facebook.
An article about a school district close by;
The headline says it all, "Art Spiegelman's Maus Banned by Tennessee School Board."
My head begins to hurt as I open the link...really? Banning Books?
I skim through the article - I can take this on in the morning, now to sleep.
Toss and turn - toss and turn - toss and turn.
The needle scratches the record - clearly it's broken again.
Frustration, exhaustion, anger, fear, annoyed;
My emotions are strong as I wake up to get ready for work.
As a rabbi - am I ever "off?" Nope - the rabbi hat remains in place.
Ok, coffee first - then back to the article. Of course, now there are many more to read.
Emails to be written - to the McMinn School Board:
"What were you thinking?" My thought - not what is written and sent.
And, yet, a thought comes to mind - Remember, ignorance is bliss.
Have these communal leaders ever met a Jewish person?
How about a Holocaust survivor? Do they know what they are doing?
Banning history? Not smart; dangerous - History to be repeated.
Today - I wake with a renewed vigor - more work to do, more things to say.
I stand by Art Spiegelman and any author of a Banned Book.
We write our history - and it begins with education.
This is where we start, where we continue and where we end - Education.
Colleyville – Or really, Anywhere…
As I found myself glued to the television screen
All I could think about was there safety.
“Please God, let them be ok…”
Those were my words as I waited and waited.
Do I go to the theater with my daughter?
Should I allow myself some joy while they were captive?
Struggle; Unsure; Anger; Frustration; Fear
I must move forward, while remaining vigilant.
They were freed! I can go to sleep…or can I?
Toss, turn…sweat, nightmares…sleep.
The next day begins – so much to do; so much to do.
Make sure my family is safe; make sure my community is safe.
Days go by and more emotions begin to drain me.
Sadness; fear; ANGER; frustration; Confusion
Why does this happen? Why the broken record?
Spinning and spinning like a spin cycle on repeat.
Shabbat is here – take a moment and pause.
Close my eyes, envision my intention to pray.
We will continue to live by our rules, our ideals.
The tension and soreness will not go away…
We just breathe and do our best to move forward.
There are those moments in our lives - moments that are defining, moments that shape the future, moments which give us the opportunity to gain experience and learn from our past. Yesterday was one of those days. After months and months of interviews, an investigative report was released. (see report here: huc.edu/about/presidential-task-force-safe-and-respectful-environments/morgan-lewis-investigation-report) The most significant response I have seen - from too many people - is that while everyone is deeply saddened, devastated and disgusted, NO ONE is surprised. For over 50 years, students, faculty and staff suffered from a culture of harassment while affiliated with Hebrew Union College - Institute of Religion. While the report references quite a bit of damning information, it is the subtle (or not so subtle) behaviors that have caused so many of my colleagues and friends true misery and pain.
Yes, I did experience some of the lesser offenses present in this report. However, I have not had to carry the same experiences with me that many before me have. I am certain this report will allow for teshuva and healing moving forward. Is it too late? Are there those who will never be able to be fully healed? And, I am sure that I have perpetrated some of the same behaviors that affected my classmates and others.
Let me say this here - If I have ever said or acted in a way that made any of my classmates (or anyone I know) feel uncomfortable or unsafe - I apologize from the bottom of my heart. If you would like to speak to me - please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us all move forward, seeking teshuva and healing for all.
I am a husband, father and rabbi - just trying to help to make the world a better place!