Alysa Stanton Becomes First Female Black Rabbi
Alysa Stanton, 45, will be ordained as the first black female rabbi in June.
May 21, 2009 — -- Growing up in a black, Pentecostal family in Cleveland, Alysa Stanton never imagined the day when she would be preparing to be ordained as a rabbi.
But that day will come June 6 for the single mother who will be ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, becoming the first African-American female rabbi in the world.
"Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed," Stanton, 45, told ABCnews.com. "Me, a spiritual leader?"
Soon-to-be rabbi Stanton and her daughter Shana, 14, whom she adopted when she was 14 months old, will move to Greenville, N.C., in August, where Stanton will take her spot behind the pulpit at Congregation Bayt Shalom, which is both conservative and reform.
Stanton, a reform Jew, said that her mother encouraged her to explore different religions as a young child and that, at the age of 9, she was already asking her priest to teach her about Kaballah, which focuses on the mystical aspect of Judaism.
Then, at age 10, she received her first Hebrew grammar book from her devout Christian uncle who made it a habit to attend Jewish ceremonies, as well as his own. By her early 20s, Stanton said she'd decided to convert.
"Most people convert because they're marrying or dating someone who is Jewish or for another reason other than just picking that spiritual path," Stanton said.
"I did so because it was the path for me," she said. "Not only from a religious standpoint but from an ethical and social and communal standpoint, it was important to me."