Less than two years after she arrived in Greenville as the world's first black female rabbi, Rabbi Alysa Stanton is moving on.Stanton was the center of international media attention when a small Jewish congregation picked her as its leader in 2009. But the board of Congregation Bayt Shalom recently voted not to renew her two-year contract.
This spring, the Pitt County synagogue plans to conduct a search for a rabbi.Quantcast"We went through an exhaustive consideration, and it would be inappropriate to discuss the details," said Samantha Pilot, president of the congregation, which is affiliated with both the Reform and Conservative branches of American Judaism.Pilot added, "She wasn't a good fit for the congregation."Stanton, whose contract expires July 31, said she was "humbled and blessed" to have served the congregation and may stay in North Carolina."Greenville is my home," she said in a written statement. "At this point and time in my life, my desire is to remain here as long as I can to serve the community as a spiritual leader."Stanton did not specify what she would do, but one of her strengths has been interfaith relations and community outreach. She is also a licensed psychotherapist.As the first black female rabbi, Stanton, 47, drew intense media interest when she graduated from Cincinnati's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2009.
Her acceptance of the job in Greenville was offered as proof that the South had moved beyond its racist past in calling a black woman to lead a predominantly white congregation.Members of Bayt Shalom said race was never discussed when Stanton interviewed for the job."It was a non-issue," said Michael Barondes, past president of the synagogue.Stanton was born into a Pentecostal family in a mostly Jewish suburb of Cleveland. She began her own spiritual quest at age 9, trying various Christian denominations and exploring some Eastern religions.
At 11, her family moved to Colorado, where Stanton continued her spiritual quest and later earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master's of education in counseling and multiculturalism from Colorado State University.She converted to Judaism in 1987 and gradually grew more involved with her newfound faith as a chaplain, cantor and Sunday school teacher. Ultimately, she returned to Ohio to attend seminary.Upon arriving in Greenville in late 2009, Stanton was deluged with requests to speak at area synagogues, churches and universities. In May, she accepted an invitation from President Barack Obama to recite a poem at the first Jewish-American reception held at the White House.
The Greenville congregation, which has about 50 families, reached its decision in late October, but made it public this month."Rabbi Stanton brought a lot of gifts," Pilot said. "I wish her well as she continues her journey."http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/01/23/938120/black-female-rabbi-congregation.html