Rabbi Sandra Lawson

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Rabbi Sandra Lawson until we are able to commission a full entry.

Rabbi Sandra Lawson

Rabbi Sandra Lawson was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in a military family. She graduated from Saint Leo University magna cum laude with a BA in Sociology and has an MA in Sociology from Clark Atlanta University. In June 2018, she received ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, becoming the first openly gay, Black, female rabbi. While serving in the military, Lawson specialized in Military Police Investigations, especially cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. Upon leaving the military she started a personal training business and later worked as an Adjunct Instructor of Sociology at local community colleges. She also served as the Investigative Researcher for the Anti-Defamation League's Southeast Region, becoming the go-to person when law enforcement in the South needed information on hate groups. As a rabbinic student, Lawson started multiple programs to foster unaffiliated Jews’ involvement with the religion: She led shabbat services for unaffiliated Jews in a vegan cafe and received a grant to launch her podcast Minutes of Torah. Lawson’s vision as a Rabbi is to help build a more inclusive Jewish community where all are welcomed, diversity is embraced, and everyone can come together to learn and to pray. She was recognized for this work with a place on Forward’s “Forward 50” list in 2020, the same year she founded Kol HaPanim, an inclusive congregation that she continues to lead. Lawson is also well known on social media platforms, where she often posts content as “Rabbi Sandra”; on Tik Tok alone she had over 40,000 followers as of 2023.  Lawson served as the Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life and Jewish Educator at Hillel at Elon University in North Carolina from 2018 until 2021, when she joined Reconstructing Judaism as its inaugural Director of Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rabbi Sandra Lawson." (Viewed on February 22, 2024) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/lawson-sandra>.