Debra Bowen is proud of Alysa Stanton’s “remarkable accomplishment.” As for Stanton, she doesn’t think of herself as a trailblazer. “I’m not here to reconstruct Judaism or create an offshoot of Judaism—I’m a Reform rabbi,” she says.
But whether she likes it or not, her ordination symbolizes, as her friend Eliot Baskin quips, a “paradigm shift to re-Jew-vinate Judaism.” It’s a sign that Jews are no longer afraid of allowing people viewed as outsiders into the tribe. “I don’t think that people who are entering our community from the outside are entering to undermine it,” says JOI’s Olitzky. “They’re entering in order to enrich it.”
Baskin believes that Alysa Stanton’s uniqueness will be just that, enriching: “As a woman, as a single parent, as an African-American, Stanton’s going to be able to reach out to so many new people to bring them back to Judaism,” he says. “I think her congregation is indeed going to be blessed.”
Like any new rabbi, Stanton is looking forward to stepping into the pulpit after years of preparation. She’s especially excited about Congregation Bayt Shalom, which is affiliated with both the Reform and Conservative movements. “I was their first choice, they were my first choice,” she says. “It’s a growing, vibrant community. The congregation is inclusive, there are interfaith families and there are lots of children, there’s a major university and a Level-1 trauma center there, so there’s opportunity for growth,” she says. “And it’s an hour and a half from the beach!”