OyChicago blog

First African American, Female Rabbi

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05/21/2009

Alysa Stanton

I just read this article on CNN.com about the first African-American woman ever to be ordained as a rabbi and the first African-American rabbi to lead a majority white congregation and thought it was really interesting.  Alysa Stanton will be a rabbi at a conservative congregation in North Carolina that recently became affiliated with the reform movement. 

I, for one, am really excited and pleased to see such diversity in the Jewish community.  What are your thoughts?

If your interested in learning more about Alysa, here is an another article from the JTA that covers her conversion process, her experiences living in Israel with her adopted daughter and why she decided to become a rabbi.

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Moishe House: It’s like a frat house for grownups…well, sort of

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05/21/2009

vitalybio

Very recently, I applied to live in the new, soon to be established Moishe House in Chicago. For those that don't know, Moishe House is an organization that opened houses all over the country to serve as hubs for local Jewish activities and events. Each house is occupied by several young adults that host a number of these events throughout the month. A typical event may encompass anything from a traditional Shabbat dinner, to a less formal movie night. In exchange, the organization provides a partial rent subsidy, as well as some funding for financing the events.

This particular Moishe House is targeted for the Russian-Jewish community, and is to be occupied exclusively by (you guessed it) a group of Russian Jews in their 20's.  In addition to Chicago, a few Russian Moishe Houses are opening in designated metro areas around the country. Nowadays, the events hosted by various Russian (and non-Russian) organizations are spread throughout cities and suburban locations. But the new Moishe House will offer one, centralized location for all sorts of events. Participants should expect a continuously dynamic environment on a weekly-basis.

The notion of living in a house with several roommates to host weekly events is a time consuming, but exciting endeavor. At the same time, it reminds me a little of running a college fraternity, not that I ever lived in one. Naturally, when I think of a fraternity, the movie Old School automatically comes to mind. However, there are few similarities between the over-the-top hilarious, yet unrealistic movie scenario, and the reality I can expect. Other than the notion of sharing a social hub with several other roommates, there is nothing fraternity-like about the idea. 

The Moishe House focuses specifically around organizing Jewish events with a Russian flavor. While the thought of a bunch of Russians under one roof carries a certain connotation (can you say, vodka?), these events are not to be confused with keg parties and streaking through the neighborhood, although I see no reason why the two cannot mix... kidding. Further, the house is not in competition with any other group or organization, but instead serves as a centralized, social sphere where Russian Jews can consistently seek an all too familiar cultural setting, regardless of religious affiliation—non-Russians are also more than welcome.

Yet, my mind cannot help but associate certain aspects of Moishe House with a fraternity lifestyle. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying this out to make up for my non-fraternity filled college years. My decision received support from some, ridicule from others, but I expected as much given such an unconventional move on my part, especially at this stage in my career.  For what it's worth, I expect a fun and educational learning experience for all involved and I invite all of you to share this experience with me through my posts at Oy!Chicago!

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