Alysa Stanton

Rabbi Alysa Stanton

Alysa Stanton (born c. 1964) is an American Reform rabbi, and the first African American female rabbi.[1][2] Ordained on June 6, 2009,[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 educationEdit

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 has said that 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kaufman, David (June 6, 2009). "Introducing America's First Black, Female Rabbi". Time. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Whitaker, Carrie (June 6, 2009). "First Black Female Jewish Rabbi Ordained". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  3. ^ "White House steps up Jewish outreach amid criticism of Mideast policy". CNN. May 26, 2010. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  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". CNN. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Brand, Rachel (May 2, 2002). "Rocky Road to the Rabbinate". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  7. ^ Cornwell, Lisa (May 29, 2009). "1st Black Female Rabbi to Be Ordained in US". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Birkner, Gabrielle (May 18, 2009). "Black Female Rabbi to Ascend to North Carolina Pulpit". The Forward. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  9. ^ Musleah, Rahel (Winter 2007). "One People Many Faces". Jewish Woman. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  10. ^ Ain, Stewart (May 20, 2009). "Pulpit of Color". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2010.
  11. ^ a b Davis, Merlene (May 26, 2009). "Ready to Be First Black Female Rabbi". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  12. ^ O'Malley, Michael (May 21, 2009). "Alysa Stanton Will Be the First Ever Black Female Rabbi". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  13. ^ Fishkoff, Sue (May 6, 2008). "On Track to be First Black Female Rabbi". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on 2009-03-16. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  14. ^ Friedman, Emily (May 21, 2009). "Alysa Stanton Becomes First Female Black Rabbi". ABC News. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  15. ^ Birkner, Gabrielle (January 5, 2011). "Alysa Stanton, First Black Female Rabbi, Will Leave N.C. Congregation". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved October 12, 2011.

Further readingEdit

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