Breaking Down Barriers

Yesterday, we wrote about the Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) conference in San Francisco which brought together a large number of racially and ethnically diverse Jews. Many of the attendees had very interesting personal stories, but one woman’s story proved to be particularly inspirational.

The JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) recently published an article about the ordination of the first black female rabbi—who also happens to be a Jew-by-choice. “Reform Student on Track to Become the First Black Female Rabbi” profiles Alysa Stanton-Ogulnick who will be ordained at Hebrew Union College next May. Stanton-Ogulnick’s uplifting story demonstrates how women continue to break down barriers in the Jewish community.

Of her reception in the Jewish community, Stanton-Ogulnick recounts:

“People look at me and ask if I was born Jewish. . . .I say yes, but not to a Jewish womb. I believe I was at Sinai. It’s not as if one day I scratched my head and said, hmm, now how can I make my life more difficult? I know — I’ll become Jewish!”

This is an exciting time for anyone who has chosen to become a part of the Jewish community, and we would like to congratulate Stanton-Ogulnick on her accomplishments. Through our program Empowering Ruth, we often hear of the personal and emotional struggles that come with becoming a Jew-by-choice – from both within the Jewish community and from without. Stanton-Ogulnick’s story encapsulates many of the same difficulties people face on their Jewish journey, but it also shows how rewarding that journey can be.

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