Reckler Cohn is an alumna of the Denver 2008 Wexner Heritage group.  She is Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Aimco, a publicly held apartment REIT headquartered in Denver, CO.  She can be reached at

B’tzelem elohim – each of us is created in the image of G-D.  This is easy enough to understand – except perhaps when applying it to someone carrying a sign reading “Your Rabbi Is a Whore.” 

That was just one of the signs greeting me as I entered the shul for a bat mitzvah.  Members of the Westboro Baptist Church – acting on their loathing of America, gays, soldiers, Jews, and Catholics – stood protesting.  This ridiculous display of hatred in the year 2010 enraged me. 

WBC wanted to provoke.  Instead, thanks to the leadership of my rabbi, WBC provided a perfect platform to encourage us to be our best selves.

Rabbi Steven Foster has served Temple Emanuel for 40 years – a “franchise player” in an era of pulpit rabbinical transience.  He has been a leader of tremendous proportions – speaking his mind and challenging the congregation and the community in ways that are not always popular but that are always honest, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. 

The bat mitzvah – undaunted by the ugliness – spoke with grace and dignity.  Characteristically, Rabbi Foster turned WBC’s presence into a teachable moment.  Instead of ignoring or diminishing the taunting outside, he challenged us by connecting the parsha to WBC.  Even the WBC members are created b’tzelem elohim, he said (something I didn’t want to hear), and with a smile added, “even if sometimes the image needs adjusting.”

Being true to your faith is one thing when the going is easy – but as Rabbi Foster has shown for over four decades, real leadership demands principled consistency.