MEET HUC-J IR’S STUDENTS
2009
ISSUE 72 | 49
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught
us that faith is not the same as belief.
Whereas belief occupies one part of who we
are, faith is an act of the whole person, of
mind, will, and heart. Rather than viewing
faith as the feeling we get when we conquer
doubt, our faith can be viewed as the process
of dealing with doubt. Faith is not a con-
stant, faith comes and goes; like the Yanov
Torah
,
our faith is stitched together imper-
fectly as a reminder of the brokenness life has
shown us. As heirs of this
Torah
,
we are re-
minded and comforted that our faith comes
from generations who have journeyed and
struggled before us.
Twenty some years ago, Rabbi Herman
took this
Torah
to Temple Beth Solomon of
the Deaf. As Rabbi Herman was talking
about the
Torah
,
a man from the congrega-
tion stood up in the middle of the rabbi’s
address and began walking toward the
Torah
.
As he approached, in sign language he said
over and over again, “That’s my
Torah
,
that’s
my
Torah
.”
Ludovic Wurmfeld,
z”l
,
was an
inmate at Yanov. Because he was deaf, the
Nazi guards thought he was dim-witted and
he was allowed to leave the work camp regu-
larly because the guards did not perceive him
as a threat. Every time Ludovic returned from
the town, he was wrapped in the words of
Torah
.
Columns of
Torah
were curled around
his legs and sewn into his jacket. Decades
later, he lived to see them again, stitched back
together in a
shul
in Los Angeles.
Faith can lead us on unimaginable jour-
neys, from light to darkness to light again.
With each journey, like the Yanov
Torah
,
we
acquire new physical and spiritual scars that
we carry with us forever. These scars are the
reminders both of our fragile faith and the
need to mend it. When we hold this
Torah
,
when we read from it, we cannot help but
think of the courage, strength, and enduring
faith of its previous caretakers. May their
legacy inspire us to journey inward to dis-
cover our own courage, summon our own
strength, and fortify our own faith in our
tradition, which is sewn together with the
threads of beauty and struggle. Through our
journeys, through our brokenness, and
through our attempts at repair, we too will
be able to stand up, carry close our fragile
faith, and say, “That’s my
Torah
,
that’s my
Torah
.”
A
lysa Stanton,
the first African-American
woman to be ordained a rabbi in Jewish
history, was ordained by Rabbi David
Ellenson on June 6th at Cincinnati’s land-
mark Plum Street Temple. She was among
14
new rabbis (10 women, 4 men) who were
ordained in Cincinnati and one of the 43
rabbinical graduates of the Class of 2009 (30
women, 13 men) at Ordination convoca-
tions in New York, Los Angeles, and
Cincinnati during HUC-JIR’s 134th aca-
demic year.
Alysa Stanton’s history-making journey
reflects her profound commitment to Jew-
ish learning and leadership,” stated Rabbi
Ellenson. “She brings to her rabbinate an
infinite capacity for human understanding
and pastoral care, as well as a passionate com-
mitment to building a sacred, inclusive
community. She and her classmates of the
Class of 2009 emerge from the College-In-
stitute imbued with leadership skills, steeped
in knowledge, strengthened by a commit-
ment to service, and dedicated to bringing
hope and healing to our troubled world.”
Stanton said “I am honored to be a vi-
sual presence of the ‘new face’ of Judaism in
an era for deepening our faith in humanity
and strengthening our faith as Jews. My goals
as a rabbi are to break down barriers, build
bridges, and provide hope. I look forward to
being the spiritual leader of a community
that welcomes and engages all.”
According to the Institute for Jewish
and Community Research, at least 20% of
American Jews are racially and ethnically di-
verse by birth and by the portals of
conversion and adoption. Approximately
20,000-30,000
marriages between Jews and
African-Americans grew out of the civil
rights movement. This diversity, reflecting
the variety and richness of Jewish heritage, is
embraced by the ReformMovement with its
commitment to inclusivity.
Stanton entered HUC-JIR’s rabbinical
program in 2002 after a career as a licensed
psychotherapist in trauma and grief. A native
of Cleveland, OH, she and her family moved
to Lakewood, CO, at the age of eleven. She
comes from a Pentecostal Christian home, but
started her own spiritual quest at the age of
nine. She converted to Judaism over twenty
years ago during her college years, driving 144
Rabbi Ellenson and Alysa Stanton at her
Ordination at Plum Street Temple
ALYSA STANTON – THE FIRST
AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN
RABBI IN JEWISH HISTORY
Jean Bloch Rosensaft