First black U.S. President, first black FLOTUS, first black animated Disney Princess. There are a lot of "first-blacks" going on. How about First black female rabbi? On June 6 Alysa Stanton, 45, will become Rabbi Stanton. The single mother of an adopted daughter is reportedly going to be the first African American female rabbi in the world. Stanton is graduating from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinatti, Ohio and will be ordained a rabbi at Plum Street Temple in downtown.
This sista from Cleveland has an amazing story. She grew up Christian, worked as a psychotherapist and converted to Judaism more than 20 years ago. She recently told the Cincinatti Enquirer about her journey to Judaism:
"I had explored different things," she says. "I came to realize that Judaism is not just a religion, it's a way of life, the sense of family, the sense of social justice. But becoming a rabbi? If someone had told me that 10 years ago, I would have laughed in their face."
According to a Jewish Journal article from last year, when Stanton went to study for a year in Jerusalem , she and her daughter encountered racism. Her daughter then 7, was beat up and for a long time didn't have friends because she was black. Also in the article she shares how she's had to prove herself because she's a woman of color and convert. But she's also gotten love from some in the Jewish community. Read both articles I highlighted for more details about the future Rabbi Stanton.
Hearing of a black Jew may come as a surprise, but there are black people throughout the world who practice the faith. There's a black rabbi in Michelle Obama's family. Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye and the FLOTUS are first cousins-once removed. The numbers are sketchy, but the New York Times estimates 2% of the American Jewish population are black.
Alysa Stanton reportedly is looking forward to the new phase in her life but she describes the journey up until this point as a "lonely journey." I could only imagine what she has endured. God bless her for staying strong and not allowing anyone or any -isms stop her from fulfilling her calling. The sista is an inspiration and an example of the diversity within the black community.
Stanton will begin her work as a rabbi at Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C. in August.
Janine Spang--Jewish Journal