DENVER – Talking about religion and politics often causes heartburn among some people, but for Steve and Joyce Foster religion and politics have been the heart of their marriage for 50 years.
The Rabbi and Senator Sleep Together (Fifth Avenue Press, RELEASE DATE) chronicle Steve serving as assistant rabbi for 11 years and as senior rabbi for 29 years at Temple Emanuel in Denver, and Joyce’s election to the Denver City Council and Colorado state senate. They offer advice to clergy, politicians and others who live a public life, including successful fund-raising, growing a congregation and being responsive to the electorate, standing up for social justice issues in the face of criticism and carving out time for their marriage and family.
They explain how clergy and politicians can and should tackle tough social issues, from gay marriage and inter-faith marriage to legalized marijuana and mental health issues. Included are insightful interviews from family and friends.
During their five decades as a couple, they both rely on their humor to help them through the tough times, hence the title of the book.
“We know we are strong as individuals but we never would have accomplished what we did without each other,” they write. “Clergy life is not easy. Political life is not easy. Put the two together and sometimes you don’t come out on the other end together. But the rabbi and senator still sleep together and for that we are truly grateful and blessed.”
They are candid how their lives in the spotlight have not always been easy, from getting criticized about a sermon or vote to Joyce’s transition from a rabbi’s wife to elected office. They discuss personal struggles, including the suicide of Joyce’s father and their daughter’s journey with mental illness.
Their lives intersected historic events, including Steve marching in the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights demonstration in 1965 to him counseling one of the shooter’s parents in the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999. New to politics in 1993, Joyce offered a “common sense” approach with such things as building the city’s first skateboard park to bringing parties together for languishing redevelopment and park projects.
They also forged relationships with other religious groups to address social justice issues and invited Christian clergy and their congregants on trips to Israel.
“We wanted to write this book because we have taken this unique journey together and hope our experiences help others who live their lives in the spotlight,” they write. “With being married for a half-century, our story also may resonate with anyone married and raising a family.”
Steve Foster was born and raised in Milwaukee and served 40 years as the assistant and senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Denver, Colo., a Reform congregation of 2,200 families. He actively spoke out on social justice issues, including gay rights and legalized marijuana. He has served on numerous local and national boards. Since retiring in 2010, he has taught at the Iliff School of Theology and served as chaplain at Denver Hospice.
Joyce Foster was born in South Bend, Ind., and raised in Benton Harbor, Mich. She served as a rebbetzin at Temple Emanuel for 40 years. She was the director of employment at Jewish Family Service in Denver for 16 years. In 1993, she was elected as the first Jewish woman to the Denver City Council, where she served for 10 years, including being chosen by her peers as president of the council. In 2008, she was elected as a Colorado state senator and served until January 2013.
The couple has three children, David and Danny, attorneys with their own firm, Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher and daughter Debbie, a preschool teacher at Temple Emanuel. David and his wife Ali, have three children, Abby, Aiden and Bo. Danny and his wife, Becky, have three children, Rex, Lucy and Ozzie.