You Go, Grrl: Alysa Stanton

Alysa Stanton was ordained earlier this year as America's first African-American female rabbi:
Stanton, who was born to a Christian family, was formally ordained on June 6, having completed seven years of rabbinical training at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Stanton will now assume her new role as the first nonwhite rabbi of Congregation Bayt Shalom, a 60-family synagogue in Greenville, N.C.

...She beat out some half-dozen candidates for the position of rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom in North Carolina. Much of Stanton's appeal, says synagogue president Michael Barondes, lies in her ability to connect and communicate powerfully, both from the pulpit and face-to-face. Those are skills Stanton honed during an earlier career, before entering the seminary — as a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss. She helped counsel victims of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. "She knows intuitively how to listen to people," says Barondes. "And as a one-synagogue town, we need a rabbi who can reach out to all of our members."

Barondes says Stanton's color played no role in her candidacy, but neither he nor Stanton — a divorced single mother to Shana, 14 — is unaccustomed to the impact of race in America, particularly in the South. Indeed, leaders of the Alabama synagogue where Stanton trained for a year as a student rabbi never believed their white congregation would accept an African-American at the pulpit. Complaints were lodged and calls were made. Yet by the end of her training, the synagogue was deeply saddened to see her go. "Everyone has their initial impressions and outmoded stereotypes," Stanton reflects on the experience. "But these people came to embrace me and my child."
Shaker GWB recommended Rabbi Stanton for this series, and sent the link along with the note: "For the first time, a WOC [has been] officially ordained as a rabbi in [American] mainstream Judaism. Also relevant, as I've seen in my local community and others, is that she seems to have been accepted as a convert becoming a rabbi. Orthodox Judaism hasn't caught up to the other denominations on this front, but Conservative and Reform Jews have come a long way in welcoming converts." And in other ways: It's not even notable when a woman is ordained anymore.

In lots of American Christian churches, women still aren't allowed to hold congregational offices, or even read scripture from a lectern, no less be ordained. Still paying for that darned apple...

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