By Reporter staff
Rabbi Rachel Esserman, executive editor of The Reporter, won second place in the American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for her column “Being a chaplain, not a theologian” in the Award for Excellence in Personal Essay: Division A. Weekly and Biweekly Newspapers category. (To read the column, click here.) The judge commented on the column, saying, “Found belief of chaplain role, so right and so respectful. This piece really moved me.” The column also won first place for Best Column in the Syracuse Press Club Awards.
“This is the first time I’ve won a Rockower in this category,” said Esserman. “Winning for such a personal piece is especially rewarding. I was hesitant to write and publish it because my reaction – mentioning Jesus – not only surprised me, but was not one that some would expect from a rabbi.”
Esserman’s column opens with her writing, “I never expected the words to come out of my mouth. But as the only chaplain available, I said the one thing I knew would bring comfort to the person who had told me proudly that he was a regular churchgoer: ‘Your friend is safe because he is resting in the arms of Jesus.’”
She noted that “I really did take the time to analyze what I did and why. I also realized that my personal beliefs should not get in the way of offering comfort to those who have different beliefs. As a chaplain for everyone, my job is not to offer theology, but rather to find ways to console those who are bereaved or suffering.”