Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meet the first black woman rabbi  

As a Jewish feminist, I was delighted to hear about the first black woman rabbi, Alysa Stanton, who is set to be ordained on June 6th. She is 45 years-old, and at age 38, she began her rabbinical studies, though she was concerned she was too old and too poor to do so. Still, she believed she was destined. After she is ordained, she will become the rabbi at the Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C., on August 1st. Concerns over her race or gender never arose at Bayt Shalom, but she has undoubtedly experienced hardships elsewhere. From Huffington:

...Stanton didn't always feel accepted by Jewish congregations or some friends when she converted during her 20s.

"A lot of my African-American friends thought I'd sold out, the Jewish community wasn't as accepting then and some Christian friends thought I had grown horns," said Stanton, who had been a Christian.

I think there is somewhat of a tension between the African-American community and the Jewish community, since those in mainstream Judaism are overwhelmingly white. Hopefully through events such as these, those gaps can be slowly bridged.

It's a bit shocking that it took so long to put a black female in this position. Then again, the amount of black Jews in general is extremely sparse. But overall, I like to think of Judaism, at least the reform branch and sometimes even the conservative, as one of the more progressive religions. At my reform temple, they have introduced gender-neutral prayer books which don't refer to God as either "he" or "she," and we have quite a few openly gay congregation members. I don't consider myself very religious, but I have no problem holding onto some of my Jewish roots, because although I might not believe in the Jewish concept of "God," I can definitely respect a lot of aspects of Judaism.

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1 comments: to “ Meet the first black woman rabbi

  • April 26, 2010 at 10:16 PM  

    I think it's sweet that she is a black rabbi! I am Jewish and we have yet to have a black member of our clergy. In fact, we recently have had women added to our rabbinical staff. It's great that she converted such a short time ago and obviously feels a great connection to Judaism.
    Yay Alysa! That was so brave of you to step out of your comfort zone. You are definitely setting a precedent for years to come of newly reformed rabbinical staff.