Sandra Lawson wants to break down all the stereotypes and ideas you have about Judaism–especially when it comes to who is Jewish, how you express that identity, and what religious life means in a modern world.
Lawson herself breaks the mold from the traditional image many have in their minds about what rabbinical students look like, as she’s an African-American lesbian vegan who converted to Judaism.
The 45-year-old is currently studying to be a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She believes it’s time for the Jewish community to start being more open-minded and inclusive, telling JTA that she hopes to get to the point where “when I Google ‘rabbi,’ I see someone other than a bearded white guy.” Which is totally true. She went on to say:
“Redefining or helping people understand what the Jewish community looks like today is something I want to do. In the U.S., people can deal with a female rabbi, a queer rabbi. But, “‘Oh, you’re black, too? That’s too much to deal with in one day.’ When you put those identities together, it’s too much to handle.
I don’t know anyone who goes to a synagogue, wears a kippah and a tallit Saturday morning who is not Jewish. Every community has their own idea of who is a Jew and what does a Jew look like. If you don’t fit that framework, they don’t think you’re Jewish.”
Read the rest of Lawson’s story, including her military upbringing and her plans to update the traditional due-based synagogue model, over on JTA.