WASHINGTON – Alysa Stanton, 45, is set to become the first female African-American rabbi. She will be ordained at the Reform Movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in two weeks.
Stanton, a single-mother to a 14-year-old adopted daughter, will be ordained alongside 29 women and 13 men at the college, who has been ordaining rabbis for 134 years.
"Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed," Stanton, told ABC news. "Me, a spiritual leader?"
Stanton started studying to become a rabbi in 2002 in Jerusalem and completed her training in Cincinnati Ohio.
In August Stanton will arrive in Greenville, North Carolina, where she will take office as the spiritual leaders of the Bayt Shalom Congregation, which is both Conservative and Reform and serves 53 local families.
The rabbi-to-be said she was not worried that her skin color might become a problem for the new congregation. "There's an adjustment period for any rabbi when they go to a new congregation," Stanton told ABC. "I am not anticipating that race will be a factor in their adjustment.
"It's difficult paving new ground," she added. "It's difficult being a first of anything, and although I'm honored and in awe that God has given me this responsibility, it's one that I do not take lightly."
Stanton, who was raised in a Christian home, started showing interest in other religions when she was nine, and decided to convert to Judaism at the age of 20.
"Most people convert because they're marrying or dating someone who is Jewish or for another reason other than just picking that spiritual path," Stanton told ABC. "I did so because it was the path for me," she said. "Not only from a religious standpoint but from an ethical and social and communal standpoint, it was important to me."