culture/multiculturalism · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · news · rabbi · race/racism · women/feminism · Yom Kippur

Taking North Carolina By Storm…

Alysa Stanton, a Conservative convert (previous articles said Orthodox) who practices Reform Judaism and has been previously featured on this blog to much fanfare, will be the First black female rabbi to take N.C. pulpit”.

Diane Tobin, Associate Director of The Institute for Jewish & Community Research and founder of Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), who was interviewed for this JTA piece, hopes that Stanton’s ordination will provide young black Jewish Americans “with an important role model. Hopefully, over time they will see themselves reflected in the community.”

Read more about the new rabbi in “10 minutes with … Alysa Stanton”. “Pulpit Of Color”, a piece in Jewish Week, is the most fleshed-out profile on the rabbi who says she’s “a rabbi who just happens to be African-American.” For some reason, I found the phrasing troubling.

If you have a strong, STRONG stomach, you can slide over to “Appointment Of First Female Black Rabbi Reignites Stark Division Between Orthodox And Reform Movement”, most of the (of course, Anonymous) comments are so thoroughly vile, it seems that plenty of people will be in need of spiritual cleansing this upcoming Yom Kippur. Oh, how I loath hate crimes.

By the way, as someone who has been forewarned that my status as a convert and woman of color might affect my husband’s job prospects, I am looking forward towards this hopeful future where people of color are no longer marginalized in (or marginalized by) the Jewish community.

18 thoughts on “Taking North Carolina By Storm…

  1. OK. I read the nasty comments. They were an absolute train wreck. And I looked at what you had to say and was sick at the responses of some accusing you of claiming to be a victim, etc.
    And this is what my father was afraid of with me converting to Judaism as a Black woman. I DO NOT buy into this idea that Orthodox Judaism is THE way. Not at all. To me it reminds me of fundamentalists Christians or even the religious organization I grew up in where the PEOPLE and not G-d were the determinants of who/what was righteous and holy. This was one of the major reasons why I fell out of love with any religion for a long time before finding Judaism, because people love to cast judgment upon others who they see has not following the right way of G-d. This makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. Of course some of the people were defensive when they were called out on their subliminally (and some just outright) racist comments. Rabbi Stanton is truly sincere and that is something that no person can judge, but only G-d. I wish her much success and I hope that G-d will be the final judge of those spitting the venom. To me, Judaism is not just about the Torah, but it is about heart and it seems that some are following Judaism as tradition; protection of legacy and heritage more than for the love of G-d and heart. Whatever the case, this will not change any time soon and it makes me very sad…


  2. It would have been nice if the commentators could have simply congratulated Rabbi Stanton on her appointment, but that would have been too intelligent!


  3. just in case I wasn’t clear, I choose to ignor the hate…attention to them in this context is a waste…they get power from the ability to spew online….theirs is a sad a pathitic way of thinking…

    Congratulations…and horray for the good guys and gals tha made such a wonderfulthing happen…she deserves only the best!…..


  4. Aliza,

    While the comments on Vos Iz Neias are not supportive of female rabbis and non-Orthodox Jewish movements, don’t forget that that is the attitude held by the majority of Orthodox Jews , especially those who live in Litvish and Chasidic enclaves. Even the Rov, R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt’l, said that trying to have theological dialogue and relations with Reform and Conservative were futile and absolutely ridiculous, in addition to being 100% assur mi halacha; he only allowed relations with these groups when there were social, charitable, humanitarian and political issues facing the entire Jewish community. While you may find that your Open/Modern community in Riverdale/YCT/JOFA/Avi Weiss take a liberal and non-fundamentalist apprpoach to Orthodoxy, the truth is that Orthodox Judaism is a fundamentalist religion. It claims that G-d ‘tells’ men how to lead the masses and control thought, behavior, conduct and other aspects of life. It also asserts that Orthodoxy is the only correct path, and that all other Jewish movements are hetrodox, heretical and unauthentic. It is also racist against non-whites and non-Jews, and elevates chumrot to astonishing levels. Sadly, this is the future of Orthodoxy. YCT guys aren’t going to get hired anywhere within the Orthodox world, with the exception of a few token MO institutions. Avi Weiss’s actions continue to tarnish the reputation of YCT musmachim and severely limit their opportunities within mainstream Orthodoxy, which is growing increasingly fundamentalist as the days go on.


  5. “It is also racist against non-whites and non-Jews, and elevates chumrot to astonishing levels.”
    According to my rabbi, it’s against halacha to be racist. Where did you get this from? Judaism is not racist. The rabbis may be and not all of them, but not G-d’s religion. According to a mishna, the ideal Jew should not be white or black but in between. Again, where did you get that from? Do not judge Judaism by the Jews. The only reason why I believe Orthodoxy is the right and only way is that it follows all the mitzvoh of the Torah. The Torah was given by Hashem and all the laws should be followed. Other movements say the opposite that is why I think they are bogus. BTW, the original Jews were not WHITEEEEE. Learn your facts before you write something.


  6. I never said that all Jews are white. I am Reconstructionist because I value the mitzvot, in addition to ethics, social justice, and multiculturalism, feminism, as well as a critical approach to religious texts and their interpretation. Judaism is a multi-faceted entity, and I think it says something that the first Black Female Rabbi is Reform. Haredidom looks at blacks as ‘schvartzes.’ Just ask any black hat.


  7. Anonymous1, you sound exactly like those people on that website. You’re just trying to get across a different message. You’re all making judgments based on one bad egg, one bad apple. And you’re applying those judgments to a whole group of people. Remember me? I’m Orthodox and so are many of the people reading this blog all over the world who would disagree with a lot of your statements. But now, I AM one of those people that you’re calling racist, narrow-minded, etc. How does that work? I refuse to judge Judaism by the Jews who pervert it. Maybe that’s naive but I do.


  8. I wouldn’t even be considered a Jew by your kind.

    Even the Conservatives are sucked into the ‘matrilineal’ myth.


  9. And there are plenty of people who don’t believe I’m Jewish either because they believe you can’t convert to a culture. I think we should focus on the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us. But again, that might be naive.


  10. Anonymous,

    1. Racism is not indigenous only to Orthodox Jews. While their racism may be more overt, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism still have their fair share of bigots. As a Jew of color activist, I hear horror stories from adult Jews of color every week from every denomination.

    2. People are free to accept or denounce patrilineal descent through their own judgment. I firmly believe the Renewal, Reconstructionist, and Reform branches are within their rights to their definition and vice versa.

    3. Just because we didn’t arrive at the same conclusion concerning halacha as you did doesn’t mean that we don’t value or use critical thinking. We simply ended up on a different side of the theological fence. That doesn’t make us better or worse. I accept the fact Reconstructionist Judaism works for you, but not for me. We should be given the same respect.


  11. Sadly, racism is common in all humanity, and there are enough external enemies, so the in-fighting also provides them with more ammunition.

    In Israel, there has been discrimination towards Sephardic and Ethiopian Jews, though technically illegal, it is still a problem, and of course, people give as good as they get as a reaction. I imagine in 18th and 19th century England, there was prejudice from the better educated and wealthier Sephardic Jews towards Ashkenazic Jews fleeing the progroms.

    Personally, I’d be more interested in Rabbi Stanton’s psychotherapist (Freudian) background and her role as a first responder in Columbine, as that has helped her prepare for her new task as a rabbi.

    As far as I am concerned, the only noticeable difference between you and a born Jew is that you can’t marry a Cohen, which is irrelevant as you married a Hasuman. You studied and learned more about Judaism than many Jews would know, and you learned Hebrew as an adult,which could not have been easy.

    <>a rabbi who just happens to be African-American.<>It’s post-racial and idealistic. It would be less troubling if more people thought that way.

    My step-mother automatically assumed I am converting because of a woman, and she has some views that I regard as anti-semitic, from her pro-Palestinian stance (she won’t explain where she got that from), to her higher regard for the likes of Michael Moore. She also brought up how her Jewish friends in New Orleans intermarry with Catholics and observe Catholic holidays, plus she mentions some sixties blather over my decision not to pursue a relationship with a woman if she isn’t Jewish.

    The comments seem much more of potshots against non-Orthodox Judaism with a backdraft of responses. I haven’t noticed the racial undertones, though maybe I am less likely to.


  12. many of the comments on that website were so awful, the comments about reform/conservative Jews so disgraceful — i’m absolutely sick to my stomach. ironically, at first some of the commenters seemed to putting down some streams of judaism by saying they were the same as christians, but then many of the comments seemed to dwindle to infighting amongst themselves, much like bickering evangelical christians i’ve seen. yikes!! I’m totally rambling — I’m drawn to more observance, and it seems like so much tradition and knowledge has been preserved by various orthodox communities, and i want to check it out … but then i read stuff like that and it just seems so full of hate. oy. i don’t know why i’m writing here, just venting i guess. thanks for the space for that.


  13. Elisabeth, I could use reinforcements. Now, you know some of what I’m up against, what you could be up against. I like to live in reality. I like to know what’s out there. Even if I don’t like it. That’s reality. Now, what are we going to do about it? Don’t let a couple of crazy people stop your dreams or where your heart is taking you. Lucky for me, I’ve been fighting crazy people all my life. I might know how to deal with them. 🙂


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