Rabbi Alysa Stanton has broken ground modeling for a new generation of Jews the many possibilities of what a rabbi can be. Born into a Pentecostal family in Cleveland, Stanton moved with her family to Denver when she was 11. There she earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s of education in counseling and multiculturalism from Colorado State University. Initially introduced to Judaism by a Christian uncle who enjoyed attending local Shabbat services, Stanton converted in 1987. Following a career as a therapist specializing in grief counseling, she felt drawn to apply her counseling skills to the rabbinate, and entered Hebrew Union College. When she was ordained in 2009, Stanton received international attention as the first female African-American rabbi, and was hailed for exemplifying the changing face of American Jewry. Stanton insisted that being the “first” not overshadow her work at Bayt Shalom synagogue in Greenville, NC, a majority-white congregation that hired her after her ordination. There, she attracted new families and expanded the b’nai mitzvah program and the religious school. Her contract ended in 2011, the same year she developed a chronic illness after a difficult surgery. Stanton is currently focusing on several book projects and continues to do rabbinical activities in both private and public settings, nationally and abroad.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Alysa Stanton." (Viewed on September 25, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/stanton-alysa>.