May 22, 2009

Alysa Stanton Becomes First Female Black Rabbi

From ABC:
"Growing up in a black, Pentecostal family in Cleveland, Alysa Stanton never imagined the day when she would be preparing to be ordained as a rabbi. But that day will come June 6 for the single mother who will be ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, becoming the first African-American female rabbi in the world.

"Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed," Stanton, 45, told ABCnews.com. "Me, a spiritual leader?"

Soon-to-be rabbi Stanton and her daughter Shana, 14, whom she adopted when she was 14 months old, will move to Greenville, N.C., in August, where Stanton will take her spot behind the pulpit at Congregation Bayt Shalom, which is both conservative and reform.

Stanton, a reform Jew, said that her mother encouraged her to explore different religions as a young child and that, at the age of 9, she was already asking her priest to teach her about Kaballah, which focuses on the mystical aspect of Judaism.

Then, at age 10, she received her first Hebrew grammar book from her devout Christian uncle who made it a habit to attend Jewish ceremonies, as well as his own. By her early 20s, Stanton said she'd decided to convert.

"Most people convert because they're marrying or dating someone who is Jewish or for another reason other than just picking that spiritual path," Stanton said.

"I did so because it was the path for me," she said. "Not only from a religious standpoint but from an ethical and social and communal standpoint, it was important to me."
Let's see what the J-blogosphere's Gil Student had to say about this, also from the same article.
"But the Orthodox Jewish community, which has historically not permitted women to hold leadership roles in its congregations, is less accepting of Stanton's upcoming ordination because of her sex.

"My general feeling, as a rabbi, is that there is a great deal of room for everyone to have spiritual fulfillment in Judaism but the public role of a rabbi is only for certain people and that excludes women," Orthodox Rabbi Gil Student of New York City told ABCNews.com. "That's based on tradition and enshrined in law."

As for race, Student said that neither he nor the Orthodox Jewish community finds any problem with African-American Jews. "There is no such thing as skin color in Judaism, it doesn't exist," Student said. "

2 comments:

Mottel said...

while unfortunately Jews are not free from the sickness of racism, it is hardly a defining factor in our religious character. To make a big deal out her ethnicity as some sort of precedent is to bring in outside factors to sensationalize an event.

Jack said...

It is rough road. You don't want to solely focus on her skin color, but she is first and there is reason to comment on that. It is noteworthy, part of the evolution of things within Judaism. Not a bad thing.