Last week Alysa Stanton was ordained as a rabbi at the Plum Street Temple in Cincinnati, one of the country's oldest synagogues, and a little history was made—the US had its first black female leader of a Jewish congregation. Stanton, born a Pentecostal Christian, converted in 1987, enduring hostility and isolation from both white Jews and other African Americans. "But my God is bigger," she tells the Guardian. "I will not be boxed in."
While America has a tradition of all-black Jewish congregations, Stanton decided to enter "mainstream" Judaism—just as the Crown Heights riots broke out in New York. The distrust she encountered has not disappeared, and at her ordination ceremony a group of white Christian protesters stood outside the temple and taunted her. Yet Stanton insists she won't be cowed: "There's still negativity across racial lines from Anglos and Jews and African Americans. But I'm still here to serve regardless."