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Today is the funeral of my dear friend and cousin-in-law, Kevin Charpentier. He was a larger than life figure who brought curiosity, joy and a touch of the outrageous to every interaction. He was also a devout Catholic and a proud member of the gay community, two ordinarily conflicting identities he embraced simultaneously the same way he lived his life: without hesitation.

Over the years, I spent a lot of time with Kevin in New Orleans and elsewhere. He was a fabulous travel companion, always ready to discover one more place, explore one more attraction and have one more meal. Kevin gave up drinking many years ago and still managed to be the life of every party he attended.

Of all the great memories I have of Kevin, none compare to those we shared during a family visit to Israel in 2018. We spent 10 days traveling throughout the country, stopping at as many Jewish and Christian sites as possible. Everywhere we went, Kevin rejoiced in the moment and lifted the spirits of everyone on the trip. He made visiting the Holy Land a truly awesome and enriching experience, and for no one more than me.

Seeing Israel through Kevin’s eyes gave me a totally fresh perspective of a place I had visited many times before. It gave me a new dimension of understanding and an appreciation for places I had long ago started taking for granted. His love for Israel and the Jewish people not only informed mine, it deepened it.

Nowhere was this more true than when we visited the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have performed miracles. For Kevin, this serene body of water represented a place of deep spiritual reflection and pilgrimage. Seeing it through his eyes gave me a much deeper connection to the Kinneret, beyond its historical and geographical significance.

There and everywhere else, the mundane became magical and the Holy Land sparkled like never before. By the end of that trip, I had a totally renewed and enhanced sense of connection to the land and the people of Israel, for which I will forever be indebted to Kevin.

With all that is demanding our attention right now, it is hard to find the time to reflect on the best parts of what it means to be a member of the global Jewish family. And yet, that is exactly what we must do even as the challenges we confront continue to mount.

As Jews, there is so much for which we should feel thankful. Judaism is more than a religion, a culture and a civilization. It is a blessing, one that gives each of us a sense of belonging along with a responsibility to work together to leave the world a better place than we found it.

Kevin helped me remember that back in 2018, and he is reminding me again today. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a source of strength for all who knew him.

Shabbat shalom and may this be the week the hostages return home,

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