Alysa Stanton

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Alysa Stanton
Rabbi Alysa Stanton (4647673095).jpg
Stanton at the White House
Personal details
BornC. 1964
Cleveland, Ohio
EducationColorado State University

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 education[edit]

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] She earned her BA in Psychology in 1988, an MA in Education in 1992, from Colorado State University.


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 also[edit]


  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. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. 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 reading[edit]

External links[edit]