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Director of Racial Diversity Equity & Inclusion for Reconstructing Judaism
Rabbi Sandra Lawson (she/her) works with senior staff, lay leaders, clergy, rabbinical students, and Reconstructionist communities to help Reconstructing Judaism realize its deeply held aspiration of becoming an anti-racist organization and movement. In her role, Lawson is developing a series of anti-racist policies and trainings for the organization and its affiliate members. She also serves as a mentor to rabbinical students. Read More >
The 2018 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College graduate is one of the first African American, queer, female rabbis. The thought-leader has consciously sought to alter the perception of what a rabbi — and the rabbinate — looks like. Lawson is known for tackling difficult questions surrounding Jews and race in podcasts, essays, media appearances and speeches. A social media pioneer, Lawson models what it means to teach Torah in digital spaces. She has built a following of more than 50,000 people on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. In 2020, the Forward named Lawson to its “Forward 50” proclaiming her a “truth-teller”.
Prior to joining Reconstructing Judaism, Lawson served as the Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life and the Senior Jewish Educator at Hillel at Elon University in North Carolina. She is also the founder of Kol Hapanim – All Faces – an inclusive, Jewish community that is relevant, accessible, and rooted in tradition, where all who come are welcomed and diversity is embraced.
Lawson was born in St. Louis, Mo. and grew up in a military family. She graduated from Florida’s Saint Leo University magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in sociology from Clark Atlanta University.
Lawson served in the U.S. Army as a Military Police person with a specialty in Military Police investigations. She specialized in cases involving child abuse and domestic violence. Upon leaving the military, she started a personal training business and later worked as an adjunct instructor of sociology at local community colleges. She has also served as the investigative researcher for the Anti-Defamation League’s Southeast Region, becoming the go-to person when law enforcement in the South needed information on hate groups.
Lawson lives in North Carolina with her wife Susan and three “fur babies”: Izzy, Bridget and Simon. Read Less ^
My Story of Becoming Jewish
Black, Jewish & Queer: Navigating Judaism with Multiple Identities
Sandra Lawson grew up in a non-religious home, in a military family. While in college she joined the United States army and in 2004 converted to Judaism. Then in 2011 she became the first African-American, accepted into the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
Sandra Lawson sees her multiple identities as an asset and uses her identities as a bridge builder. Her 21st century rabbinate takes her from nursing homes, to cafes, to the world of social media where she uses the aspects of her identity to connect with others.
Jews want to engage in Jewish life and want to be part of a Jewish community. For many Jews the current model of the synagogue does not work and it is time to create innovative ways to connect to Jews. And to create different models of what it means to be a rabbi in the 21st century. Through technology, music and prayer Sandra is using her rabbinic training to meet Jews where they are in their lives and she is creating sacred spaces outside the boundaries of synagogues.
"I wanted to reach out to say how much everyone enjoyed Rabbi Lawson’s talk and how engaging the program was. Thank you for all your help with the coordination!"
"It went really well, thank you! Rabbi Lawson spoke beautifully during our event. She has a gift for putting participants at ease and having them feel embraced with her warmth. She was able to navigate difficult and nuanced topics with her knowledge and sharing of personal experiences. She is caring, dynamic and genuine and we are so grateful we had the opportunity to have her speak and share with us. Her team at ABP is efficient, thorough, and easy to work with. I would highly recommend Rabbi Lawson as a speaker and looking forward to working with APB for our future speaker needs."
"Rabbi Sandra was terrific and the event was a success from our standpoint."
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