A special meeting of the Temple Kol Emeth membership today unanimously approved the hiring of Erin Boxt to be the East Cobb congregation’s second rabbi.
Boxt, who will be ordained as a Reform rabbi this spring when he graduates from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, will begin working with Kol Emeth and the congregation’s longtime senior rabbi, Steven Lebow, in mid-June.
“We’re excited to find someone who has all the qualities Temple Kol Emeth hoped to find in a second rabbi: energy, enthusiasm, personality, heart, musical ability, a way with children and a great rapport with Rabbi Lebow,” congregation President Andy Linkon said.
Boxt, 35, should help Temple Kol Emeth and its 500 member families grow and thrive in an era of social media and virtual communities that often fail to have real-world impact.
He is at home online, where he maintains a blog of his journey to become a rabbi through five years of seminary and synagogue internships, has gotten involved with Twitter and has begun posting videos on YouTube. But as that video shows, Boxt also understands that the finest words have no meaning unless they result in actions that improve lives and make the world a better place.
That attitude matches the approach of Temple Kol Emeth, which exists to be a home for the Jewish community in and around East Cobb and to strive for the betterment of the entire community through projects such as the Cobb Interfaith Habitat Coalition, which has built 10 Habitat for Humanity houses, and the annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service, which earned the congregation the first Creating Community award from the Cobb County Community Relations Council.
The like-minded approaches to applying the lessons of Torah and Jewish traditions to the modern world drew Kol Emeth and Boxt together, but this position also is a homecoming of sorts for the student rabbi. He is from South Carolina and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in psychology in 1999, then earned a master’s in education from Mercer University. He lived in the Atlanta area and was a member of Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs.
“Erin’s Southern roots add to our belief that his hiring will mark the start of a long-term relationship,” Linkon said.
Boxt and his wife, Batya, have a 6-year-old daughter, Carlie, who was a baby when he started rabbinical school.
“I faithfully believe that my life journey to first become a rabbinical student and now to start the process of becoming a rabbi is my calling,” Boxt wrote in 2007 about his decision to enter the seminary as he approached age 30.
He has gained experience by serving as a student rabbi and rabbinic intern at Beth Isaac Synagogue in Trenton, MI, Meir Chayim Congregation in McGehee, AR, Temple Beth Shalom in Fort Walton Beach, FL, and The Temple (Congregation Adath Israel Brith Shalom) in Louisville, KY. He also worked one summer as the assistant director at Camp Livingston, a Jewish overnight camp in Indiana.
Those experiences will serve Boxt well at Kol Emeth, where his duties will include working with the congregation’s youth, reaching out to the many young, unaffiliated Jews in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta, helping with the synagogue’s music program, and generally assisting Rabbi Lebow in meeting the needs of the Jewish community.
Temple Kol Emeth launched its search for a second rabbi last summer. The process included every constituent group in the congregation to develop the profile of what Kol Emeth wanted and needed.
The synagogue received applications from 14 current rabbis, and members of the search committee interviewed nine of the 26 senior Reform rabbinical students in Cincinnati.
Boxt emerged as the top choice from that phase of the search, then won over the full congregation while spending a Shabbat weekend at Kol Emeth with his wife Jan. 20 to 22.
The search committee recommended hiring Boxt, and Sunday’s vote of the membership confirmed the decision of the Kol Emeth board to accept that recommendation.