Alyssa Stanton and other black rabbis enter the American Jewish mainstream

Appeared in July/ August Moment by Jeremy Gillick

One of the first things that six-year-old Alyssa Stanton noticed when her family moved into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was a rectangular ornament affixed to the doorpost of her new home. Her uncle Edward, a “devout Catholic who went to shul on occasion,” explained to her that it was a mezuzah. “He would wear a yarmulke sometimes,” she says, “and he knew a lot about a lot of things.” A few years later her uncle, who spoke eight languages, gave her a Hebrew grammar book, which she still has.

This fleeting introduction to Judaism set Stanton—the granddaughter of a Baptist minister and daughter of a Pentecostal Christian—on a journey that led her to convert to Judaism 18 years later. Stanton, now 45, recently passed another milestone on her spiritual journey. On June 6 in Cincinnati’s historic Plum Street Temple, she was ordained by Hebrew Union College, the Reform rabbinical school, making her the movement’s first African-American rabbi and the first African-American woman ordained by a mainstream Jewish denomination.

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One Response to “Alyssa Stanton and other black rabbis enter the American Jewish mainstream”

  1. This is realy sad that their isn’t more African American Rabbis. In Judaisim a religion that has been discrimated against for hundreds of years should be more welcoming to people of color. I hear in Israel the Ethiopian Jews which are Black face great discrimination and are treated as second class citizens.

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