Saturday will mark a new era for the Jewish community as the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati ordains mainstream Judaism’s first African-American female rabbi, Alysa Stanton.
According to a report issued by the Institute for Jewish and Community Outreach in San Francisco, twenty percent of the Jewish population in the United States, or roughly 1.2 million people, come from diverse, nonwhite backgrounds.
Jonathan Sarna, an expert on U.S. Judaism at Brandeis University in Boston attributes the growing diversity of the Jewish community in part to conversions, intermarriage and adoption. He sees Stanton as symbolic of a great change in the American Jewish community.
Change certainly seems to be at the forefront of United States’ culture and politics these days. It is not surprising that the nation’s Jewish community would be undergoing similar transformations in its own leadership. Stanton told the Huffington Post that she is “happy to be a face that reflects diversity.”
Stanton’s spiritual journey demonstrates that one does not have to be born Jewish to become a Jew, or a rabbi, for that matter. Stanton’s experiences will likely resonate with other women who are interested in Judaism, and may encourage a greater diversity of women to join the Jewish community and take on leadership roles.
As Stanton told ABC News: “It’s difficult being a first of anything, and although I’m honored and in awe that God has given me this responsibility, it’s one that I do not take lightly.” She will soon lead Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C..