On June 6th, Alysa Stanton will become the first African-American woman to be ordained as a rabbi and will lead a congregation in North Carolina. Stanton, a convert to Judaism, is a mother to an adopted 14 year old daughter and a trained psychotherapist who specializes in trauma and grief.
Since ordaining its first female rabbi in 1972, Hebrew Union College (HUC) has ordained 582 women rabbis. Reconstructionist Judaism ordained its first female rabbi in 1974, and the Conservative movement began ordaining women as rabbis in 1985. Since then, a number of Orthodox women have also received Orthodox smicha.
The ordination of the first female African-American rabbi should spark further discussions about the ordination of women rabbis within a Messianic Jewish context. The Messianic Jewish movement remains one of the only branches of Judaism that still does not officially ordain woman as rabbis. But this is not for a lack of previous discussions and debate.
A number of debates, including a recent one hosted at Toward Blog, highlight the growing call for Messianic Judaism to move forward in this matter. Many of us younger Messianic Jews do not even understand what is holding us up from moving forward on this issue, and are continually growing restless with all the foot dragging. In the meantime, many gifted and talented young women are voting with their feet and leaving our movement for spiritual communities in which their talents are valued. In a day and age when women can be and do anything, it seems absurd that what they CANNOT be is a Messianic rabbi.