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Alysa Stanton

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Title: Alysa Stanton  
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Subject: Timeline of women's ordination in the United States, Timeline of women rabbis in the United States, List of Jews in the African diaspora, Timeline of women in religion in the United States, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Collection: 1960S Births, 21St-Century Rabbis, African-American Former Christians, African-American Jews, African-American Religious Leaders, American Former Protestants, American Reform Rabbis, Converts to Judaism from Pentecostal Christian Denominations, Hebrew Union College Alumni, Jews in the African Diaspora, Living People, Members of the Church of God in Christ, People from Cleveland, Ohio, People from Denver, Colorado, Women Rabbis, Year of Birth Missing (Living People)
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Alysa Stanton

Alysa Stanton (born c. 1964) is an African-American Jew. On June 6, 2009, she was ordained as the first African-American female rabbi.[1][2] In August 2009 she began work as a rabbi at Congregation Bayt Shalom, a small majority-white synagogue in Greenville, North Carolina, making her the first African-American rabbi to lead a majority-white congregation.[3] Stanton converted to Judaism at age 24 and first studied and worked as a psychotherapist.

Early life and education

Stanton was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Denver, Colorado, with her family at the age of 11.[4][5] Although raised in the Church of God in Christ, when she was 24 Stanton converted to Judaism after considering several Eastern religions.[5][6][7][8] She has said she was "born Jewish—just not to a Jewish womb".[9]


In her first career, Stanton was a psychotherapist.[8] She specialized in grief counseling, and was asked to speak to people in Columbine after the 1999 high school massacre.[10] Before preparing for the rabbinate, she sought to become a cantor, but heard that Jewish leadership positions were not available to women.[11] When she finally saw a female cantor, she decided to pursue the studies necessary to become a rabbi.[11]

Stanton graduated from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a Reform Jewish seminary.[6] She says she is not concerned with being the first Black woman to become a rabbi, "I try not to focus on being the first. I focus on being the best—the best human being, the best rabbi I can be."[12] "If I were the 50,000th, I’d still be doing what I do.... Me being first was just the luck of the draw."[13]

In August 2009, Stanton became the rabbi of Congregation Bayt Shalom, a small majority-white synagogue in Greenville, North Carolina.[5] The congregation's president said that the fact that Stanton is African-American and a woman had nothing to do with the decision to hire her: "I'm very proud of my community. [Stanton's being a woman or being Black] never came up in conversation. Obviously, we all know that's unusual but when she got on the pulpit during her visit, it was totally comfortable."[14] In 2011, the congregation decided not to renew her contract, which expired July 31, 2011.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Kaufman, David (June 6, 2009). "Introducing America's First Black, Female Rabbi".  
  2. ^ Whitaker, Carrie (June 6, 2009). "First Black Female Jewish Rabbi Ordained".  
  3. ^ "White House steps up Jewish outreach amid criticism of Mideast policy". CNN. May 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ Dettelbach, Cynthia (January 17, 2008). "Tenacity, Vision, Thick Skin for Aspiring Female Black Rabbi". Cleveland Jewish News. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c Sterling, Joe (May 31, 2009). "A Black Woman's Journey to the Rabbinate in North Carolina".  
  6. ^ a b Brand, Rachel (May 2, 2002). "Rocky Road to the Rabbinate".  
  7. ^ Cornwell, Lisa (May 29, 2009). "1st Black Female Rabbi to Be Ordained in US".  
  8. ^ a b Birkner, Gabrielle (May 18, 2009). "Black Female Rabbi to Ascend to North Carolina Pulpit".  
  9. ^ Musleah, Rahel (Winter 2007). "One People Many Faces". Jewish Woman. Retrieved October 20, 2010. 
  10. ^ Ain, Stewart (May 20, 2009). "Pulpit of Color".  
  11. ^ a b Davis, Merlene (May 26, 2009). "Ready to Be First Black Female Rabbi".  
  12. ^ O'Malley, Michael (May 21, 2009). "Alysa Stanton Will Be the First Ever Black Female Rabbi". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  13. ^ Fishkoff, Sue (May 6, 2008). "On Track to be First Black Female Rabbi".  
  14. ^ Friedman, Emily (May 21, 2009). "Alysa Stanton Becomes First Female Black Rabbi".  
  15. ^ Birkner, Gabrielle (January 5, 2011). "Alysa Stanton, First Black Female Rabbi, Will Leave N.C. Congregation".  

Further reading

  • Fishkoff, Sue (May 17, 2009). "First African-American Female Rabbi to Take Pulpit".  
  • Neroulias, Nicole (May 20, 2009). "10 Minutes with ... Alysa Stanton". Religion News Service. Retrieved May 30, 2009. 
  • Hoffman, Melody K. (July 6, 2009). "1st Black Woman Rabbi's Journey To History".  
  • Gillick, Jeremy (July–August 2009). "Post-Racial Rabbis".  
  • Yarrow, Allison Gaudet (November 11, 2009). "Shalom Y’all: New Rabbi Lights Up Southern Town".  
  • Jacobs, Andrea (January 21, 2010). "Roots of Rabbi Alysa Stanton's Journey in Colorado".  
  • Birkner, Gabrielle (January 5, 2011). "Alysa Stanton, First Black Female Rabbi, Will Leave N.C. Congregation".  

External links

  • Congregation Bayt Shalom
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