Monday, January 10, 2011

Race and the Rabbi

Stanton, the first African American rabbi, is leaving her congregation after two years. By leaving, I mean that the board of Bayt Shalom in Greenville, North Carolina decided not to renew her contract. According to board president Samantha Pilot:
“We felt Rabbi Stanton has brought a lot of gifts to the congregation, but we felt she wasn’t a good fit for the direction we’re going.”

Pilot didn't elaborate on Stanton's "gifts" or why the board isn't renewing her contract, but sometimes clergy and congregation don't click. But, then Pilot says this:
“I can tell you with certainty that race — I never heard that come up once during her tenure or now,” she said. “It’s a non-issue.

After reading this story in the Jewish Daily Forward, it appears the Bayt Shalom board president, unprompted, decided to add this little qualifier about race. But, if race is not a factor, why even bring it up? The article also does a bit of tap dancing around the subject, as well:
Stanton, 47, said the challenges that she faced at the Bayt Shalom weren’t all that different from those of any other first-year rabbi, but hers “were more visible because the world was watching.”


And it’s not easy having all eyes on you, as you’re trying to go about your job. “I’m not a novelty or a freak show,” she said. “I’m a rabbi.”

Race doesn't really come to the forefront of the article until you read that infamous quote from Pilot. Perhaps Pilot is responding to a question by the reporter or maybe she brought the issue up on her own. Who knows? But, even after being ordained and leading her own congregation, Stanton is still treated like a novelty.

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